BUFFALO – Don’t think of Cal O’Reilly as a late-season recall the Sabres simply added to fill out the roster for a few weeks.
If O’Reilly keeps producing like he has recently – one goal and three points in four games – the versatile forward could perhaps earn a regular role as a third- or fourth-liner next season.
“I always view the roster as about 32 people,” coach Dan Bylsma said today after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the New York Rangers.
O’Reilly, 29, signed a two-year, $1.4 million contract in July.
Bylsma has awarded O’Reilly about 14 or 16 minutes a contest and regular power-play duty since the Sabres summoned him again last week. O’Reilly has seized the opportunity.
“I thought Cal’s done a great job,” Bylsma said. “He’s really played with pace. He’s played responsibly defensively, good defensively. But at the same time, he’s been able to add his puck poise and make a play with the puck.”
In his first NHL action since 2011-12, O’Reilly has one goal and four points in nine games this season. Many veteran recalls don’t have a notable body of work in the big league, but O’Reilly has 14 goals and 45 points in 122 NHL appearances, a notable .36 points a game.
“The more confidence the coaching staff’s showing in me, the more I’m trying to live up to that ice time,” O’Reilly said.
He added: “I keep getting better and better, more confident.”
O’Reilly, an AHL All-Star and the Rochester Americans’ captain, has also ignited the Sabres’ power play, which was struggling.
“The success on the power play’s largely been due to Cal’s ability and puck presence with that play,” Bylsma said.
In other news, the Sabres stayed off the ice this morning after roaring back late Monday in Toronto to win a 4-3 shootout against the Maple Leafs.
Some other notes:
– Goalie Robin Lehner will start.
– The Rangers have beaten the Sabres eight straight times dating back to April 13, 2013, their longest winning streak ever against Buffalo.
– At 19 years and 131 days, rookie Jack Eichel became the youngest 20-goal scorer in Sabres history Monday. Pierre Turgeon was 19 years and 140 days when he scored his 20th on Jan. 15, 1989.
– Bylsma said defenseman Cody Franson (neck) is progressing “slightly and slowly” and worked out off the ice today. He also said winger Tyler Ennis (concussion) has taken small steps recently. He hopes they play again this season.