BUFFALO – Had Taylor Fedun been healthy enough to participate in training camp, then perhaps the Sabres would’ve recalled the defenseman earlier this season.
But Fedun, who will make his Sabres debut tonight, fractured his foot in April. He didn’t skate again until the day before training camp started, coach Dan Bylsma said.
After finally joining Sabres practices Oct. 1, Fedun said he was still behind a week or two following his assignment Rochester Americans in early October.
“Got his game underneath him,” Bylsma said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “Last three weeks he’s been very good for us, a smart defender, compete level (is) high, a puck mover.”
Tonight Fedun will skate beside Justin Falk, his partner in Rochester, and also man a point on the second power-play unit against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the start of a four-game home stand. The team’s second unit hasn’t scored yet this season, so any new talent is welcomed.
Fedun has been one of the AHL’s best defensemen, compiling two goals and 12 points in 14 games. The Edmonton native had a four-point game Friday.
“He was due for a call-up after that,” Bylsma said.
The Amerks, who are coached by former Sabres assistant Dan Lambert, play a similar style.
“I think that’s one of the nicest things,” Fedun said. “It makes for a much more seamless transition when the message is the same down there. You don’t have to come up here and deal with different systems and nerves all at once. It’s definitely a plus.”
To make room for Fedun, the Sabres sent rookie defenseman Casey Nelson down Wednesday. Nelson, 24, has zero points and a minus-4 rating in eight games. He was clearly struggling in his limited minutes.
“Casey just needs to find his game and get games underneath his belt,” Bylsma said.
Fedun, who signed a two-way contract July 1, has 12 NHL games under his belt. He has also played for Edmonton, San Jose and Vancouver, compiling two goals and seven points.
Most defensemen summoned from the AHL don’t have notable numbers. Why has Fedun scored so many points?
“I wish I could put my finger on it, then maybe I’d be here a little bit more often,” he said. “I think I’ve just tried to play the same way that I do when I’ve been up here. The players up here have a lot of skill. You (can) just work to get them the puck and let them do the work.”
In other games news, goalie Robin Lehner will start for the Sabres, losers of five straight games (0-3-2). Top center Ryan O’Reilly will miss his third straight game (mid-body injury).
In other news, popular former Sabres agitator Patrick Kaleta has been named the team’s youth hockey ambassador. Kaleta, who played with Rochester last season, will implement the Sabres’ Learn To Play Program.