(WGR 550) – Dylan Cozens' errant pass went from behind his own net, up the slot and out to New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith at the point. Smith’s screen shot went in, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead on Tuesday night.
The Buffalo Sabres rookie was upset with that play and some others over the past few games, so when Kevin Rooney rammed Drake Caggiula into the boards from behind, the youngest player on the team showed up to defend him.
Cozens felt he needed to do something to help the team.
“The hit didn’t look too good and I wasn’t too happy with my own play these last couple of games, and especially that game. So I thought I needed to get myself involved some way, so I saw it as a good opportunity to do so,” the 20-year-old said following Wednesday's practice.
The next obvious question, of course, is what is it in his game he’s not happy with?
“I’ve been fighting the puck lately," Cozens said. "I haven’t been able to get into a rhythm at all, and I think the biggest thing is to just simplify and not try to do too much.”
Cozens hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games, but he has seven assists in that span.
Sam Reinhart has been on fire lately, scoring five goals in his last three games.
Don Granato moved Reinhart to center 16 games ago. Overall, Reinhart has scored 10 goals and five assists for 15 points in those games, but only six of those points (four goals and two assists) have come when he was actually playing the position.
In that time, Reinhart has six points on the power play when he’s on the wing. He scored one goal from the wing off a faceoff. He was on the wing and Casey Mittelstadt was at center when he assisted on Tage Thompson’s 6-on-5 goal to tie a game, and he was on the wing with Mittelstadt at center for his empty-net to complete his hat-trick and clinch the win against the Boston Bruins this past Friday.
Reinhart has played much better at center this time than when he was there in the first few years of his career.
“It’s forced me to move my feet a little bit more," Reinhart said on Wednesday.
“I think it was an adjustment at the start of my career, having to force myself to do it, and then moving over to the wing and bring that part of it. This part of it is almost more natural to me, so it’s been fun for me to go back to that and play that different style.”
Interim head coach Don Granato has liked what he's seen from Reinhart when you get down to the nuts and bolts of why he is playing well at center.
“Sam is not only a great goal scorer, he has more room to find different pockets because he’s not wedged against the wall," Granato explained on Wednesday. "He can move east-west, left-right and he has a creative side to him as well, so as he’s reacclimated to that position and he shows signs of continuing to get better and more dangerous.”
Tage Thompson took a bad penalty with only 8:02 left in the game on Tuesday. He cross-checked Smith after Smith had knocked him down. On Wednesday in practice, Thompson found himself off the Mittelstadt line and with Caggiula in his spot. Granato made no bones about how unhappy he was with that penalty.
“I expressed to him that I did not like that penalty at all, and it contributed to us having less of an opportunity for us to comeback and win that game. So there’s no question that was an impact,” Granato said.
Cody Eakin missed practice on Wednesday because he was back in Buffalo for the birth of his child.
Granato did confirm that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will be in net Thursday in Boston.