BUFFALO – In their first stint together almost a decade ago with Team USA, Sabres coach Don Granato said he would sometimes push winger Jordan Greenway hard.
Greenway, then a teenager with the U.S. National Team Development Program, did not always like what Granato demanded of him as a junior player. Still, Granato said, the youngster “pushed through,” developing into a terrific NHL prospect.
“We had a great relationship prior,” said Greenway, who made his Sabres debut in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. “He really was able to help me make that next step in Michigan (at the NTDP).”
Greenway, 26, might enjoy a career-changing opportunity with Granato and the Sabres. The Canton native, having mustered just two goals in his first 45 games, joined Buffalo during perhaps his roughest NHL season.
He fell out of favor with the Minnesota Wild, and they dealt him to the Sabres for second- and fifth-round picks prior to Friday’s trade deadline.
The Sabres, as evidenced by the price they paid for him, are excited by the potential the 6-foot-6, 231-pound Greenway possesses.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Friday that Granato believes Greenway can reach a higher level.
“He’s seeing that maybe … I haven’t been playing to who I am, and I think he sees something that he can help and that he can maybe take the leash off me a bit,” Greenway said. “… I think he knows I’m ready to go, I’m ready to take the next step, I’m ready to help the team. I think that’s really what you want out of a player.”
Greenway said Granato has a history of getting the most out of his players.
“The one thing about him was he always knew how to get the players that he had play their best, I think,” he said. “I think he knows how to make each guy individually go and what they need. He cares about his players. It’s not always Xs and Os, you got to do this and that. It’s, how do you get Jordan comfortable out there, how do you get any of the guys?
“I think that’s big. I think that was huge at the NTDP. I think it’s huge at this level. It’s something that I’m really excited for. He’s a guy I have enjoyed playing for and I’m excited to play for.”
Granato understands it will take time for Greenway to acclimate. Weather-related travel delays prevented him from making it to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, so following a day off, he joined the Sabres for first time Monday morning on the KeyBank Center ice.
Greenway skated at left wing early Monday beside Zemgus Girgensons, who has been shifted to center, and Kyle Okposo. All three play a heavy, straightforward game. Greenway later moved up beside Peyton Krebs and Victor Olofsson.
“In fairness to anyone coming in the lineup, you’re going to have some nerves,” Granato said. “It’s probably going to take you a couple of games just to settle in. I know for him being from upstate New York, there’s a lot of excitement to him and extra adrenaline that’ll go into it.”
Greenway said he “was pumped” when he learned he had been traded. In addition to Granato, he knows other Sabres, including center Tage Thompson, his teammate at the NTDP.
“That makes the transition a lot easier,” Greenway said. “On top of that, what this team has been able to do, the direction that they’re going in, it’s great.”
After five years in Minnesota, Greenway understands he probably needed a fresh start.
“It’s not something that maybe I was thinking about every day, whether I needed a change of scenery, this or that,” he said. “It was just more of go out there and play and see what happens. But you look at how I’ve been playing and maybe the production, this or that, and it’s easy to say maybe he needed something different.”
To make room for Greenway, center Tyson Jost, who has an undisclosed injury, will be scratched. Jost skated Monday morning.
“Jost is nursing something that it’s going to be a good day for him to take a step back),” Granato said. “Hopefully be potentially ready for tomorrow (against the New York Islanders).”
Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson and Riley Stillman both missed Monday’s game with upper-body injuries. They’re day to day, according to the team.
Stillman, who was knocked down during a fight with Tampa Bay’s Tanner Jeannot and left the game, skated Monday morning in a non-contact role.