SUNRISE, Fla. — The Buffalo Sabres’ big sell-off was most notable for the way it pumped more draft picks into the organization. But Wednesday’s under-the-radar deal of defenseman Brayden McNabb to Los Angeles landed an intriguing prospect in Nicolas Deslauriers.
Deslauriers, 23, is a converted defenseman who has thrived after moving to forward this year for the Kings’ Manchester farm club in the AHL. He made his NHL debut Friday night against the Florida Panthers after being an emergency recall from Rochester earlier in the day.
He was slated to make his debut in Rochester on Friday night but heard from the Sabres around 11 p.m. Thursday when Chris Stewart, Zemgus Girgensons and Torrey Mitchell were all injured in the 3-1 win at Tampa Bay.
“I was kind of nervous for the morning skate in Rochester,” Deslauriers said. “I got the call to join the team here and it was surprising but so exciting too. I’d rather start here than start in Rochester so I’m looking forward to it.”
Deslauriers, 23, is a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder who had a team-high 18 goals and 39 points in 60 games this year Manchester. He had yet to play for the Amerks.
“Deslauriers came from a real good organization and in L.A. they don’t give you games until they make you good enough and you’re ready to go,” said coach Ted Nolan. “He was pretty close I imagine to getting the call. He’s a big body. I’ve watched him play with my son in Manchester. I like the way he plays. He plays with a little spirt and jam and that’s exactly what this organization needs.”
Deslauriers said his transition to offense has gone smoothly because he was always thinking offense first while on the blueline anyway. The Kings suggested it in training camp
“I never thought I was going to get traded,” Deslauriers said. “I had a good meeting with (L.A. GM) Dean Lombardi a couple weeks ago. I was just sitting on my couch watching TSN and it popped up. I’m pretty happy about it though. A fresh start would be good for my situation playing forward this year. I’m happy.”
You hear “three up, three down” a lot in these parts during spring training. Prior to Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers, Nolan’s analysis was “out goes three, in comes three” to describe the Sabres’ injury situation.
Girgensons, Stewart and Mitchell all sat with lower body injuries suffered Thursday. Luke Adam joined Deslauriers on emergency recall and Zenon Konopka, a scratch the last two games, came back into the lineup.
No one really knows what happened to Girgensons, who played just one shift in the second period Thursday.
Stewart was injured in the third period when he was drilled by goalie Anders Lindback chasing a loose puck. Mitchell stopped a shot with his foot in the second period and finished his first game with the Sabres but couldn’t go Friday.
With just 20 games left, Nolan said a couple of the injuries could be season-ending. He wouldn’t say who but smart money would be on Stewart for one.
Nolan admitted he was still upset about the Stewart injury because he felt Lindback only went for Stewart and did not play the puck.
“The players are instructed to avoid goaltenders at all costs,” Nolan said. “I think it should be reversed on plays like that. You’ve got to try to avoid players at all costs too and try to get the puck. But we’ll leave that up to the officiating.”
Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher was scheduled to make his Sabres debut after being claimed off waivers Wednesday from Ottawa but did not play due to continuing immigration issues.
Conacher was also having flight difficulties in Buffalo, and the Sabres told him to stay there when they learned his immigration was not yet settled.
Nolan and General Manager Tim Murray both said Conacher will have to cross into Canada today to have his final paperwork approved and should be ready to make his Buffalo debut Sunday night against Chicago in First Niagara Center.
Former Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell entered the game second in the NHL in ice time at 27:26 per game for the Panthers. He has ecliped 30 minutes eight times in the last 23 games.
St. Louis Cardinals reliever and Lewiston native Kevin Siegrist, a diehard Sabres fan, tweeted a picture from the stands while he attended the game.
New York Mets ace and ex-Bisons all-star Matt Harvey was also in the house. Harvey, an avid New York Rangers fan, has several months of rehab ahead of him after Tommy John surgery.
The Mets’ spring base is in Port St. Lucie, about 90 minutes north on Interstate 95. The Cardinals are a little closer, based south of the Mets in Jupiter.