Sam Reinhart (23) celebrates after scoring Feb. 9. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Dan Bylsma envisions Sabres rookie Sam Reinhart as center in future

BUFFALO – After a brief run back at center filling in for the injured Ryan O’Reilly, Sabres rookie Sam Reinhart will skate again on the right wing beside center Jack Eichel and Evander Kane tonight against the Calgary Flames.

Someday, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said, he envisions Reinhart returning to center, his natural position. But Reinhart, whose 18 scores top the goal-deprived team, is most effective on the side right now, Bylsma believes.

“Just really putting together a line that could be our best line,” Bylsma said inside the First Niagara Center.

Bylsma shifted Reinhart this season so he could play on the top two lines. While the move to the wing will likely only be temporary, the second overall pick in 2014 has played so well Bylsma has thought about perhaps leaving him there.

“It does maybe change a little bit with the success that he’s had at wing and the comfort that he has, kind of seamlessly starting there and playing there and the success he’s had,” Bylsma said. “I still think his intelligence of how he plays the game lends itself to being a puck distributor in the middle of the ice.”

Bylsma said with O’Reilly (foot) out, Reinhart could play center again soon.

“I probably think in the next 18 games he’ll play a few more at center,” he said.

Despite his terrific rookie season, Reinhart was left off the initial roster released Wednesday for the Under-23 North America team at the World Cup later this year. Clearly, he’ll be in the conversation until the team is finalized.

“Obviously, it would be an honor,” Reinhart said. “Not really on my mind right now.”

Of course, Eichel earned a spot on the U-23 team that also has phenom Connor McDavid and slick Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, who has 24 goals and 63 points in 62 games.

Eichel, who played for Boston University, sometimes works out with Gaudreau, who played for Boston College.

“You see his skill set, his skill level,” Eichel said. “I wasn’t really too surprised about how well he did.”

The unique World Cup format – there are basically All-Star team in addition to countries – is good, Eichel said.

“It kind of expands the people who can participate in this event,” he said.

In lineup news, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner will start tonight, his 17th appearance.

Bylsma said defenseman Cody Franson, out the last five games with a neck injury, will sit out again. Franson appeared close to playing last week.

“I would say it kind of has gone the wrong way for him,” Bylsma said. “When he skated in Anaheim, he felt real close to being ready to go.”

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