TORONTO – In the toughest days of his season, as Sam Reinhart endured goal droughts of 10 and 15 games, the Buffalo Sabres winger said he never changed a thing.
Reinhart, 22, kept preparing the same way each day. Thirty-eight games into his third NHL season, he had mustered only five goals and 11 points.
But Reinhart trusted his approach would pay dividends.
After recording a hat trick in Saturday’s 7-4 win in Nashville, Reinhart has compiled 18 goals and 36 points in his last 40 games, including 16 goals and 34 points in his last 34 outings. He quickly transformed his worst offensive season into arguably his best.
Entering tonight’s tilt against the Maple Leafs, Reinhart has scored 24 goals and 47 points in 78 contests.
“It’s a little nice knowing I prepared the same way, I’ve done the exact same things to get ready and be way more consistent, because obviously it’s been a good stretch,” Reinhart said this afternoon inside the Air Canada Centre. “But even when I wasn’t going well, I was still doing the right things to try to make it turn.
“I’m glad I was able to stick with it, because it was pretty tough, to be honest, going through that. It’s nice to be getting a little success and gives you something to build off, another consistent one next year.”
Some players don’t like sharing their personal goals, but Reinhart has no problem acknowledging he wants to score 30 goals next season.
“My mindset is this is what I can do kind of every year and be this kind of player,” the former second overall pick said.
Something, of course, changed on the ice around New Year’s Day, when Reinhart ended his 15-game slump, scoring outdoors in the Winter Classic at Citi Field.
To Reinhart, he’s simply been earning more bounces.
“I was putting myself in the same positions,” he said. “For whatever reason, now they’re bouncing off my stick.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley thinks Reinhart’s move to center early this season, which ended in the fall, hurt him. Over the last three months, Housley believes Reinhart has consistently asserted himself around the net, where he’s at his best.
“You can see all the goals he’s scored on the power play, he’s right in front of the goaltender, tipping pucks, creating things in front of the goalie … and he’s been able to fight through and find a puck here and there,” Housley said. “I think that’s the difference in his game and the determination. You get some confidence when you contribute offensively.”