BUFFALO – Ted Nolan knew very little about Sabres prospect Tim Schaller prior to training camp. The center hasn’t dazzled the coach, but his play away from the puck has been catching Nolan’s eye.
“I just thought his hockey intelligence was evident to a few of us,” Nolan said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “He kept doing it day after day after day. We just felt that he deserves an opportunity.”
Schaller, an undrafted free agent from Providence College, will be making his NHL preseason debut tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This is a dream come true,” Schaller said. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. It’s a preseason game, but it’s a tryout for me. I was waiting for this all last year, didn’t get it. Now it’s my time to shine tonight. I’ll bring my A game, that’s for sure.”
Schaller finished last season in Rochester strongly, scoring seven goals down the stretch. The converted defenseman is a checking forward, however.
“He’s never going to score 30 goals for you, but if he can prevent 30 goals scored against you, that to me is like having a 30-goal scorer,” Nolan said.
Nolan said Schaller “just kind of grew” on him.
“You never what’s going to happen and how life unfolds,” Nolan said.
Schaller said his family purchased the NHL Center Ice TV package to watch him play.
“To have a game this early in the year for preseason is fantastic,” he said.
Nolan skated Schaller between Brian Flynn and Cody McCormick this morning.
The rest of the forward lines: Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Drew Stafford; Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart; Brian Gionta; Marcus Foligno, Torrey Mitchell, Chris Stewart.
Defense: Jake McCabe, Andrej Meszaros, Tyler Myers, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov.
Michal Neuvirth will start in goal and be backed up by Andrey Makarov.
Foligno hasn’t played since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
Former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who’s with the Leafs on a tryout, is listed on their game roster.
In other news, the Sabres are starting to send some players down. Winger Justin Bailey was leaving with his Kitchener Rangers bag this morning.