Jack Quinn hasn’t played since Jan. 27. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres know Jack Quinn’s return from injury can give them boost

BUFFALO – When the Sabres announced the lower-body injury winger Jack Quinn suffered two months ago could sideline him six to eight weeks, it appeared his trying season might be over.

The Sabres have just 10 games left, starting with tonight’s home contest against the Ottawa Senators. If Quinn experienced any setbacks, he could’ve run out of time.

In early March, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams wouldn’t rule out Quinn’s return this season, although he said he wasn’t expecting it.

But having recently endured a more difficult recovery – he tore his left Achilles tendon in late June and missed six months – Quinn, 22, understands the grueling rehab process.

He told himself he could play again this year. Now, he might have that opportunity tonight.

Update: Quinn will play tonight.

Sabres coach Don Granato said Quinn, who has missed 23 games since getting his left ankle caught in the boards Jan. 27 in San Jose, is officially day to day. He participated in a full-contact practice Tuesday in his usual spot at right wing alongside center Dylan Cozens and JJ Peterka.

“I was probably more optimistic than everyone because it’s me and my body,” Quinn said following Tuesday’s practice in KeyBank Center, his first session since getting injured.

His presence means a lot on and off the ice. Whenever he returns – the Sabres continue their five-game home stand Friday and Saturday – he should provide a boost as they battle to keep their ultra-slim playoff chances alive.

Incredibly, Quinn, the eighth overall pick in 2020, looked in mid-season form when he returned from his Achilles injury Dec. 19. He registered five goals and 12 points in 17 games as the Sabres compiled a 9-7-1 record before he went down again.

Quinn said “staying engaged in the game and never kind of losing it from my brain” helped him perform at such a high level after missing the first 32 games.

“I felt like when I came back, there was a little bit of stuff with the timing, but other than that I was mentally right in it,” he said.

Cozens said Quinn “stepped in right away and made a difference.”

“Kind of exceeded everyone’s expectations for game speed and getting to game pace and conditioning,” he said.

Quinn’s return should have a positive ripple effect. While Peterka, the team’s leading goal scorer, has recorded three goals in the last two games playing alongside top center Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch, Granato on Tuesday moved him back with Cozens and Quinn. Jordan Greenway replaced Peterka at left wing on the first line.

“It makes everybody else better because now there’s one more highly talented scorer that’s dangerous that the other team has to pay attention to and diverts attention away from Tuch and Thompson,” Granato said of Quinn’s presence. “(It) consumes attention, demands attention of matchups and worry and concern, and that opens up more scoring for everybody else.”

Granato added: “Putting Quinner back there (with Cozens and Peterka), we know the potential right away for them to have that dynamic component. The familiarity is there; you could see it today in practice. Hopefully that opens up.”

The affable Quinn, a teammate Granato said “everyone loves,” also lifts morale.

“He’s always joking, always in a good mood, always laughing,” Cozens said. “Guys love having him around, so it’s been a weird year not having him around much this year, and it’s (stunk).”

Of course, it takes a special mindset to be able to recover from two surgeries and long-term injuries in a seven-month span.

Granato said Quinn “visualizes where he needs to go” and never loses focus on his target. To Granato, that illustrates the youngster’s belief in his abilities.

“He’s got a clear vision of how good he can be, and he knows it,” he said. “So if he didn’t have that confidence, he would be coming to us asking questions all the time. And if he doesn’t have a vision of where he wants to go, he’d be really down.”

Quinn, however, rarely gets down.

“A lot of people could sit there and feel bad for themselves, feel sorry for themselves, and, obviously, I’m sure he did do a little of that, and I would’ve, too,” Cozens said of Quinn dealing with his injuries. “And I think anyone would’ve, but he gets through that quick and he gets back to, ‘All right, I got to rehab and get ready and get ready to go.’ He just has such a positive outlook on things.”

The Sabres, lightweights at home for years, have won five of their last six (5-1-0) games at KeyBank Center to improve to 17-17-1 this season in Buffalo.

Granato said the Sabres had a different feel in their pregame preparations and on the bench during those contests.

He also said some players – he singled out Thompson and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin – have “stepped up.”

Sabres rookie winger Lukas Rousek left Tuesday’s practice early after getting high-sticked in the face. Granato said the Czech needed to be examined by doctors and had no update.

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