BUFFALO – Points-wise, this is the best start of Sam Reinhart’s career. In his first nine outings of a season, the Sabres winger had never hit the five-point mark.
Of course, Reinhart, 22, hasn’t exactly enjoyed a rollicking October. He has zero goals and five assists entering tonight’s tilt against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center.
Fresh off a 25-goal, 50-point campaign in which he scored 18 goals and 37 points over the final 38 games, the first few weeks of his fourth NHL season have been disappointing.
Still, Reinhart looks close to busting out. He had two power-play assists in Sunday’s 4-2 win in Anaheim. Meanwhile, he and his new linemates, center Vladimir Sobotka and Conor Sheary, have been generating scoring opportunities since Sabres coach Phil Housley put them together for Saturday’s 5-1 win in Los Angeles.
“In our last couple games when that line was put together, they’ve had some really quality offensive zone time,” Housley said this morning. “(Reinhart’s) had some really good looks, which in turn, if he keeps getting, they’re going to fall in.
“But I like where his game is right now.”
Reinhart acknowledged his lack of offense frustrated him before last weekend.
“Last game, those chances definitely came back in numbers,” said Reinhart, who pumped three shots on goal against the Ducks. “I’m just going to stick with it. I think when the first one’s going in, hopefully the flood gates open a little bit.”
Sticking to what has made him successful in the past buoyed Reinhart last season. As he struggled mightily – he mustered only two goals and five points in the first 17 contests – he said he never doubted his talents and kept doing the same things.
“It’s easier to do the things preparation-wise when things are going well,” Reinhart said. “It’s harder to keep those things up when things are going poorly or things aren’t going so well. That’s something I definitely look at to keep the preparation the same … throughout the highs and lows.”
Check back later for more on Reinhart and his new linemates.
In other news, Housley hinted winger Tage Thompson, who will be a healthy scratch tonight for the third straight game, could be sent to the AHL soon. Thompson, 20, has zero points in seven games.
“We’ll have more of an evaluation what his situation’s going to be like tomorrow,” Housley said. “I just think giving him a different perspective, and I know we need him to be playing games and getting some ice time, but right now, with where we are at as a team and winning two games, obviously you’re not going to change your lineup.
“There’s some good cohesiveness within our group. But we know he’s a big part of our team and our future. He will get an opportunity to get back in the lineup shortly.”
Sabres goalie Carter Hutton will start tonight, his eighth nod this season. Canadiens backup Antti Niemi will oppose him.
The Sabres will scratch defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and winger Remi Elie (both healthy).