BUFFALO – It’s only playful fighting, of course. Sometimes Nick Deslauriers and Marcus Foligno scrap on the ice after practice. Other times the Sabres wingers tussle for positioning on the bus.
“That’s normal,” a smiling Foligno said Friday. “We do that quite a bit. He annoys me quite a bit. I annoy him quite a bit. We go hand-in-hand.”
Their constant jousting earned them the nickname “Bash Brothers” from their teammates, Foligno said.
“We’re always just hitting each other,” he said after the Sabres prepared for this afternoon’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild inside the First Niagara Center.
If Deslauriers, 25, had his way, he would “square off a little bit more” with Foligno, he said.
“I think it’s just we’re almost like two brothers,” he said.
The Sabres, a young team with five 30-something veterans, pride themselves on being a close-knit group. No one, players will say, is more popular than the energetic Deslauriers, who seems to have a smile permanently etched on his face.
“He’s always buzzing, always buzzing,” Foligno said about his close friend.
To Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, Deslauriers’ personality is “infectious.”
“Just kind of a high-energy, kind of good … fun-loving demeanor,” he said. “He’s a guy I think everyone wants to be around.”
On a team that has done a lot of losing recently, the levity Deslauriers provides at the appropriate moments helps ease the pressures of the NHL’s daily grind.
“I like to goof around and just lighten up the mood, and when it’s time to think hockey a little bit more and just pump up the guys, I think I just try to bring another side of me,” Deslauriers said.
Foligno believes “you got to have that in the dressing room.”
“You got to find sparks and have fun,” he said. “Sometimes it’s stressful in here, but you got to find the lighter side.”
Sometimes that lighter side comes out when Deslauriers dances. Yes, the man teammates affectionately call “D-Lo” has been known to bust a move.
“He’s got some unbelievable dance moves,” Foligno said.
Foligno even dances occasionally, too.
“I think he thinks I’m a good dancer,” Deslauriers said. “I never took some lessons. He’s a pretty good dancer, too. He’s not smooth, he’s stiff. It’s funny.”
Has Bylsma, who earned the nickname “Disco Dan” by occasionally dancing, ever seen Deslauriers dance?
“I have not seen him dance,” he said. “But they haven’t seen me dance, either.”
Foligno said he hasn’t seen Deslauriers have a bad day.
“He’s always smiling, always up to something,” he said. “It’s good to have those type of guys in the room. It kind of lightens things up. When things are going wrong, you got to keep it light, you got to not worry about too many things.”
Where does Deslauriers’ energetic nature come from? He said he hails from “a family of energy.”
“I think I’m just born with energy,” said Deslauriers, who made his NHL debut March 7, 2014 after the Sabres acquired him from Los Angeles.
His parents, Penny and Stephane, own a moving company in Quebec, and taught him if you want to be successful, you must “do it the way you want it,” he said.
“I need to do something every time,” Deslauriers said. “Sometimes when people don’t have energy, I take their energy and I feed off it.”
The Sabres feed off plenty of Deslauriers’ rugged on-ice exploits. He’s their most frequent and fiercest fighter. Just two years into the league, opponents already seem to shy away from him.
Foligno said the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Deslauriers might be the team’s best all-around athlete. He can pick up a football and throw a perfect spiral or almost do the splits.
“For how big he is, you don’t think he’d be able to do that stuff,” Foligno said.
Deslauriers enjoyed one of his best games in months Thursday, skating on the third line beside center Cal O’Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons in the Sabres’ 6-3 win against Calgary.
Since the Sabres traded winger Jamie McGinn to Anaheim on Monday, Deslauriers, whose 152 hits top the Sabres, could see more action.
“I think Nick has been real physical, our most physical forward of late and (I) wanted to give him the opportunity to do it on a line there with Cal and Zemgus,” Bylsma said.
In the second period, Deslauriers utilized his heavy shot – it might be the team’s most underrated – to score his fourth goal and first since Oct. 30. He celebrated by pumping his arm wildly and howling.
“You look at the celebration he had, I mean, that’s just the type of person he is,” Foligno said. “He’s energetic. That’s an emotional celebration. He’s just having fun.”