BUFFALO – Kyle Criscuolo was about to leave for the rink Sunday morning when Rochester Americans coach Chris Taylor phoned him.
“He was giving me a little joke,” Criscuolo said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “He said, ‘You’re not playing tonight.’ I said, ‘OK.’ He said, ‘You’re suspended. No, I’m kidding, you’re going up.’”
With a dearth of centers, the Sabres summoned Criscuolo, 25, for the second time this season. He will play tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This recall, Criscuolo said, felt different than his first one. When the Sabres brought up the Harvard product in November, he had never played in the NHL and was only six weeks into his first season in the organization.
The eight-game NHL look provided the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Criscuolo some much-needed familiarity.
“It’s huge being back here for a second time,” said Criscuolo, who has zero NHL points. “Having been up and been around the guys really I think is the biggest thing. You’re more familiar with the guys you’re going to be playing with and you’re more familiar with the coaching staff.”
He added: “When you’ve been somewhere before, you definitely feel more comfortable.”
Like Brendan Guhle, the defenseman recalled with Criscuolo, the Sabres want him to utilize his speed. Coach Phil Housley put Criscuolo between Benoit Pouliot and Nick Baptiste this morning, the Sabres’ third line.
“Crisco has had a terrific year down in Rochester,” Housley said. “(We) brought him up early in the year, he didn’t get any offensive production, sent him back down to work on his game. He’s provided that for Rochester. This is why he’s getting an opportunity.”
Criscuolo has compiled 15 goals and 34 points in 50 games with the Amerks. Among other things, he said he has spent the past few months working on his faceoffs.