BUFFALO – When Evan Rodrigues found out he would be starting the season as the Sabres’ 13th forward, he said he was “shocked.”
“That was obviously not a situation I thought I’d be in,” Rodrigues, who will make his season debut Wednesday, said following today’s practice inside KeyBank Center.
Rodrigues, 26, played 74 contests last season, showcasing his versatility up and down the lineup at center and both wing positions.
In late July, an arbitrator awarded Rodrigues a one-year, $2 million contract.
Then last week, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger made Rodrigues a spare.
After sitting out the first three games as a healthy scratch, winger Connor Sheary’s upper-body injury (day-to-day) will create a spot for the Boston University product against the Montreal Canadiens.
Rodrigues, according to Krueger, handled his demotion well.
“Evan’s been outstanding,” he said. “I mean, he’s the one that said to me, ‘Somebody’s going to be in this spot all season long.’ He took it really well. He’s stayed active, he’s been working really hard and his opportunity now comes tomorrow. He’s excited to get back in the lineup.
“He’s been nothing but supportive to his teammates and to the process.”
Rodrigues practiced today in Sheary’s spot at right wing beside center Casey Mittelstadt and Jimmy Vesey.
“Just bring the same work ethic and effort that I always do, just play my game,” Rodrigues said of what wants to bring Wednesday. “I’m confident in my ability.”
Rodrigues said he skates with Vesey during the summer in Boston.
Krueger said Monday’s 4-3 overtime road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game in which the Sabres rallied from two deficits, could be beneficial.
“It’s important sometimes to have tough nights right now because we are in a very deep learning phase of changing the way we want to play and developing Sabres hockey here,” he said. “Those setbacks are really, really good, especially when you take a point out of them.
“That’s the way we’re managing it today. We’ve had a lot of conversations. The players are very clear on what we’ve done well in the last three games and what we haven’t. We’re just going to continue to drive toward the well.”
Wednesday’s contest kicks off a three-game home stand. The Sabres also host the Florida Panthers on Friday and the Dallas Stars on Monday afternoon.