BUFFALO – So far, Nathan Beaulieu has no complaints. When the Montreal Canadiens traded the defenseman in June, he envisioned joining a slick Sabres team that would grow together.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be with the way we play and how we’re progressing as a young team,” Beaulieu said Tuesday following practice inside HarborCenter.
Right now, one day before the season opener against Montreal, Beaulieu, 24, owns the coveted spot beside Rasmus Ristolainen on the No. 1 defense pair. The Sabres’ aggressive style – “Being involved in every aspect of every play, it’s unique,” he said – excites him.
Beaulieu, the 17th overall pick by Montreal in 2011, is happy.
That doesn’t, however, mean he has forgotten how his six-year tenure with the Canadiens ended. Following their first-round playoff loss last season, they essentially made him a scapegoat, dishing him to the Sabres for a third-round pick June 17.
“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” said Beaulieu, a healthy scratch for the Canadiens’ final playoff game. “I was in Montreal for quite some time and developed a good relationship with a lot of people there. … There’s some emotions involved. … There’s no friends over there now.”
Beaulieu, a left-handed shot with strong puck-moving skills, could fit nicely beside Ristolainen.
“He’s a pretty special player,” Beaulieu said. “I think with our skating ability and offensive instincts we should be able to create a lot.”
Beaulieu created a lot last season, setting career-highs – he had four goals and 28 points in 74 games – across the board.
While Beaulieu hasn’t been with the Sabres long, he already feels comfortable in his new city.
“I grew up pretty close to Buffalo, only a couple hours from here (in Strathroy, Ont.),” he said. “I really like how it’s a blue-collar town and everyone’s really friendly. It’s kind of reminds me of where I played junior in Saint John (New Brunswick). It’s a small-knit community. They love their sports.”