BUFFALO – OK, so if the Sabres need a fourth-line center – they’ve been using Nick Deslauriers sparingly in that spot, forcing them to essentially use only three trios – why did they assign Derek Grant to the Rochester Americans?
When the Sabres reclaimed Grant on waivers Monday, it was assumed they would utilize him as their No. 4 pivot. After all, Grant played 35 games in that role before the Nashville Predators claimed him Jan. 11.
Instead, the Sabres sent him to the AHL.
“A little bit of waiver wire ruling,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said this morning. “No one else put a claim in on Derek, so unimpeded he could be assigned to Rochester. We have 23 guys on our roster right now. So a roster spot would have to be cleared for Derek to be on our roster. That’s the case on paper.”
The Sabres, who lost 2-1 Monday in New Jersey, have eight games in the next 13 days, starting with tonight’s tilt against the San Jose Sharks at KeyBank Center.
Reinforcements might be needed soon. Grant’s stay in Rochester could be short.
“There will be a time when we need some help,” Bylsma said.
In other news, Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson will start tonight, the backup’s 18th nod and 20th appearance. The Swede has performed splendidly at home, going 6-1-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in eight games.
The rest of the lineup, Bylsma said, will be announced before the contest.
Update: Defenseman Justin Falk is scratched. Taylor Fedun will move back in.
The Sabres have dominated the Sharks at home since they entered the NHL in 1991, going 16-1-1. Still, the Sharks won last year’s meeting – a 2-1 overtime triumph Nov. 14, 2015 – their first victory in Buffalo since 2005.
Some other notes on tonight’s game:
– The Sabres now rank last in shots allowed per game with a whopping 33.7. Yikes! Only once in the last 15 games have they allowed fewer than 30.
– The Sabres are 5-0-1 in their last six home games, their first six-game home point streak since Nov. 28 to Dec. 15, 2014. The Sabres haven’t had a seven game streak since Feb. 17 to March 24, 2012.
– When Tyler Ennis scored late in Monday’s loss – the winger did a spin-o-rama below the right circle and shot the puck from past the goal line – he appeared to channel former Sabres teammate Jochen Hecht, who tried to put the puck on net from all sorts of odd angles.
“Jochen was a good player,” Ennis said. “I loved playing with him and (Jason Pominville), we had a good line. Maybe I subliminally picked up some pointers from him, did the sharp-angle, tight shot.”
Ennis said he didn’t see the puck go in the net.
“I kind of heard it hit the back on the net,” he said. “It was a different sound than hitting the paddle or the pads. So I kind of thought it might’ve gone in.”