BUFFALO – Even in a new role as an NHL starter, Sabres goalie Carter Hutton’s mentality hasn’t changed. The popular veteran still acts like he’s trying to crack the big leagues.
“He’s just trying to prove himself every day, whether (it was) earlier in his career, when he was a backup, (or) now he’s in the No. 1 position where he’s played a lot of hockey,” said Sabres coach Phil Housley, who knows Hutton from his days as a Nashville Predators assistant. “He’s always looking for something to prove. He’s always had to do it his whole career.”
Hutton started Thursday’s 3-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes, his first appearance in 10 days. An upper-body injury sidelined him one game before he backed up Linus Ullmark on Tuesday.
After signing a three-year, $8.25 million contract July 1, Hutton has often been the Sabres’ backbone this season, tending some terrific goal.
But leadership qualities and what he brings off the ice have probably been just as valuable to the Sabres, a young team learning to win.
Right away this season, Hutton, 32, became one of the Sabres’ strongest voices.
“Carter brings a lot of energy to the game every day and passion to the game and his work habits and his work ethic speak a lot about who he is,” Housley said inside KeyBank Center. “There’s a lot of other intangibles that come into play. Being in the room and the veteran experience and the way he communicates within our group, it’s been invaluable.
“To top if off, he’s played some really solid hockey for us. It’s great to see him doing well. You look at his track record and what he has had to do to get here, it’s a lot of work. He’s earned everything that he’s gotten.”
Hutton wasn’t worried about the layoff.
“It wasn’t that long,” Hutton said. “I’ve found sometimes with these bye weeks and Olympic breaks, I’ve played some of my best hockey after it. So it doesn’t really translate, I don’t think. Sometimes the rest is nice, to come back a little bit rejuvenated.”
If you’ve watched Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut closely, you possibly noticed he often taps his stick on the ice before shooting the puck.
Why? The rookie said he wants to get rid of the snow that has accumulated on his blade.
“Get a feel for the puck a little better,” Pilut explained after recording an assist in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win.
Chances are Pilut, 22, would still have a pretty good feel if he kept a little snow.
Just six games into his NHL career, the Swede has looked impressive, showcasing terrific vision and playmaking ability.
On Tuesday, center Johan Larsson redirected Pilut’s shot from the right point – yes, he tapped his stick first – in for the tying goal late.
“My thought was just trying to get it through and hit a skate or something,” Pilut said. “I got a lucky bounce. It was a great effort by Larry.”
In Saturday afternoon’s 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Pilut spotted Jack Eichel in front of the net and unleashed a quick shot from the left point the captain tipped in.
Pilut, who has three goals and 22 points in 16 games with the Rochester Americans this season, keeps looking more comfortable.
“I’m getting there and trying to transition my game from Rochester and from the Swedish league as much as possible,” Pilut said. “I’m feeling better and better.”
Pilut believes he has another step.
“(Tuesday) was a good step forward,” he said.
How’s this for an incredible stat? Entering Thursday, the Coyotes had scored 11 short-handed goals this season and only allowed eight power-play scores in 85 attempts.
“It is extraordinary,” Housley said. “It says a lot about that group. They’re taking a lot of pride in it and now they have confidence in it they can take that extra play and extend and get on top of it and force things.”
Notes: The Sabres used the same 18 skaters as Tuesday. An upper-body injury sidelined defenseman Marco Scandella for the eighth straight game. Housley said he wants Scandella to have one more practice. … Housley said forward Patrik Berglund is still sick. … Mike Fischer, the father of Coyotes winger Christian Fischer, played hockey at St. Bonaventure in the 1980s.