BUFFALO – It was a year in the making. During a recent eight-game run, Rochester Americans forward Luke Adam morphed into a dynamic presence again, using his 6-foot-2, 206-pound frame to dominate down low.
Adam compiled five goals – he had only six in his first 44 games with the Amerks dating back to last season – and nine points, including scores in four straight. He was tough on pucks, won battles and got to the net.
For the 22-year-old Sabres prospect, a sense of relief accompanied his best stretch since he began the 2011-12 NHL season scorching.
“It was frustrating, for sure,” Adam said about his slump Friday inside the First Niagara Center prior to the Amerks’ 4-1 win over the Lake Erie Monsters. “At the same time, it’s a great feeling to be out of that and be back to where (I’m) putting points on the board and back where I’m engaged to be. I hope to continue that.”
So far, Adam hasn’t continued scoring, going pointless in his last four contests. In Monday’s 2-0 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs, he was taken off the left wing beside center Kevin Porter and Mark Mancari and demoted to the third line.
Still, Adam’s recent run represents major progress.
On Friday, Amerks coach Ron Rolston said Adam busted his slump because he started dictating the play.
“I think early on he was just waiting for other guys to help him along in that process and make things happen and he’d finish on things,” Rolston said. “But now in this last stretch where he had a great streak going he’s made things happen out there. …
“You’ve got to get to the net, and I think he’s doing a good job of that. He’s getting around the net more. He’s getting deflections and second opportunities and plays around the net. I would think those two things are probably the biggest key.”
Considering Adam’s past exploits, his struggles are almost stunning. He scored 29 goals and 62 points in only 57 games with Portland two years ago, earning AHL top rookie honors and his first 19 NHL games.
He began last season as a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate, scoring three goals and six points in his first four games and four goals and 11 points in his first 11 appearances.
On Dec. 17, 2011, Adam scored his 10th goal and 20th point. At that point, 32 games into what had quickly become the Sabres’ best rookie campaign by a forward in years, he looked like a future 30-goal scorer playing center.
But that was Adam’s last NHL point. He endured 20 straight pointless games and some healthy scratches before the Sabres demoted him to Rochester on Feb. 11.
Some observers believed Adam would go down briefly, pile up some points and return to Buffalo with his confidence restored. Adam, however, only had four goals and 13 points in 27 AHL appearances and never got recalled.
The marathon slump continued until Dec. 7, when an assist ignited his hot streak and ended an eight-game point drought.
What made Adam, who has seven goals and 14 points in 28 games this season, slump nearly a full calendar year?
“I don’t know. It was really a battle there for 40 games,” he said. “The start of this year, it didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. I thought I was playing a lot better, but I still wasn’t getting any production. Just lately, I’ve found some good chemistry with Mark and Kevin.”
In Rolston’s mind, Adam lost his confidence.
“When you start getting that one opportunity, things feel good,” Rolston said. “He can always shoot it. He’s got an unbelievable shot. But (when) they start going in, you start feeling better about yourself and then you come into the game knowing you’re going to get a point or score a goal, make a big play. I think in this last stretch you could definitely see that in his play.”
Adam added: “I don’t know if I lost (all my confidence). It’s definitely disappointing. I mean, I definitely did lose a bit of confidence. You just try to stick with it knowing that you’re going to bounce out of it. It’s good to be back to normal.”
While he’s not quite back to normal yet, another point streak could force a recall if the NHL season ever starts.
“I think I can play in the NHL,” Adam said. “I’m ready for (the season) if it does start or when it does start, to be able to produce at that level.”
Notes: Amerks defenseman T.J. Brennan has earned AHL Player of the Week honors for the period ending Sunday after scoring one goal and six points in three games. Brennan had a career-high five points in one contest. … On Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres Newborn Baby program began giving all babies born in 2013 at Millard Fillmore Suburban and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo a Sabres baby blanket and certificate from owner Terry Pegula.