BUFFALO – A year ago, Sabres winger Scott Wilson compiled eight goals and 26 points over 78 games often skating short minutes on one of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bottom lines.
The numbers, of course, don’t exactly wow you. But in a low-scoring era, most fourth-liners don’t push 10 goals or 30 points.
So what could the speedy Wilson do if, say, he earned more ice time on a scoring line?
In recent weeks, Sabres coach Phil Housley has consistently given Wilson, 25, action at left wing on a scoring line beside center Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart.
“They’ve had success as a line,” Housley said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “I think you look at all the analytics, they’re playing well. I’d like to see them pitch in more offensively down the stretch here.”
Wilson scored the tying goal late in a 4-3 shootout win March 8 in Ottawa. He also produced offense during a brief run beside O’Reilly in late January.
Through 39 games with the Sabres, Wilson has compiled six goals and 13 points entering tonight’s tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. His ice time has shot up to 13 minutes, 37 seconds a game, more than three minutes higher than last season.
For Wilson, who won a Stanley Cup last year, the opportunity is special. When the Penguins traded him earlier this season – he played 17 games with Detroit before the Sabres acquired him Dec. 4 – he wanted a larger role.
“With the opportunities I’ve been given here … my goal next season, I think, is get 15, 20 goals,” said Wilson, who scored five goals in 24 games in 2015-16. “With having a longer summer to work on my game, I haven’t really been able to do that the last few summers just from the long runs in the playoffs.”
Arduous two-month playoff runs that last well into June can leave players exhausted.
“Having two years of long years and not a lot of summer time, it takes a toll on you mentally, just getting away from it (is important),” said Wilson, who was injured during the Penguins’ Cup run two years ago. “You’re only able to get away from it really for a few weeks and then you have to start training again because you’re behind eight ball if you don’t.
“It’s just a mental break and kind of regroup and come back to your roots. You got to take advantage of the time.”