BUFFALO – In moving gritty newcomer Jordan Greenway up to right wing beside center Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner, coach Don Granato has given the Sabres’ No. 1 line an intriguing new physical element.
The 6-foot-6, 231-pound Greenway, 26, can wear down opposing defensemen. The Dallas Stars, Thursday’s opponent, know him well, having faced him regularly for years when he played for the Minnesota Wild.
“They’re well aware of who Jordan Greenway is, finishing hits and creating space,” Granato said prior to Thursday’s ugly 10-4 loss to the Stars at KeyBank Center. “I think as we move forward, you get a guy like that and you have another team that wants to match up against Thompson and Skinner maybe with different type of defensemen, add another element that they have to deal with.
“So I want to see how that transpires and I think that’s something that we’ll look at and use at various points – sometimes matchups, but overall get acclimated to that because you put a matchup against the Thompson line, that’s a whole other element now you have to deal with.”
After the Stars scored twice in 18 seconds to go up 3-0 late in the first period, Greenway redirected Skinner’s pass to the net at 19:35, his first goal with the Sabres. Thompson also recorded an assist. Greenway assisted on Skinner’s third-period goal.
Greenway and Thompson, who’s also 6-foot-6, know each other well, having been teammates as teenagers at the U.S. National Team Development Program under Granato in 2014-15.
Granato said Greenway spoke to him about potentially playing with Thompson before he could bring it up.
Of course, the familiarity Greenway and Thompson enjoy can help them as new linemates.
“Just being able to communicate, be comfortable, talking about what you’re going to do out there,” said Greenway, who was acquired before Friday’s trade deadline. “Yeah, we’ve had a history, so I kind of know what he likes to do, where he likes to get pucks. But playing with a guy like that, guy like Skinny, it’s going to be pretty easy regardless.”
Thompson has developed into an elite scorer this season, registering 42 goals and 83 points in the first 63 games. Eight years ago, Greenway learned he possessed the qualities of a future star.
“You could always see the talent that this guy had,” he said. “Great hands, he wasn’t as big as he was now. … He was a smart hockey player. You could see that he had all of the tangible things needed to be a star. It was just about him putting it all together. And, obviously, we’ve seen him be able to do that now.”
Winger Jack Quinn, who had been subbing for Alex Tuch on the top line, skated at right wing Thursday with center Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt.
Defensemen Mattias Samuelsson and Riley Stillman both returned Thursday after upper-body injuries sidelined them two games.
To make room, the Sabres scratched Jacob Bryson and Kale Clague.
Stillman was injured fighting Tampa Bay’s Tanner Jeannot in Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 win over the Lightning, his second game with the Sabres.
“I put myself in a bad spot and he capitalized and he hit me hard,” said Stillman, who was acquired Feb. 27 from the Vancouver Canucks. “It’s one of those where it’s part of the game and we’re good to go now.”
Stillman turned 25 on Thursday.
Granato said he has not received an explanation from the NHL about Hudson Fasching’s late winning goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 road loss to the New York Islanders.
Fasching, who began is career with the Sabres, appeared to kick the puck into the net off his shin. The goal was immediately waved off on the ice before replay officials ruled there was no distinct kicking motion.
“Upon watching the film myself, two things came to mind that you guys probably know because Hudson Fasching was a Sabre at one point,” Granato said. “I had him for two years at the national team. No. 1, everyone knows he’s a great kid. No. 2 … he was one of the best soccer players in the state of Minnesota when we brought him to the national team.”
Notes: Sabres prospect Devon Levi, a junior at Northeastern, has been named a finalist for the Richter Award as the NCAA’s top goalie. Levi, 21, won the award last year. … The Sabres made one change up front, inserting rookie winger JJ Peterka for Vinnie Hinostroza. … The Stars began a six-game road trip that continues, oddly enough, Saturday against the Seattle Kraken.