GLENDALE, Ariz. — Things were finally going well for Matt D’Agostini. During a season in which he’d been waived, he had risen to a prominent role with the Buffalo Sabres and was putting up points.
Then a few minutes into a game in Toronto on Jan. 15, he suffered an upper-body injury. He missed six games, stopping the long-awaited momentum.
“It always seems to be the situation for me lately,” D’Agostini said Thursday, “but I’m hoping to keep up where I left off there and just get back to my game.”
The right winger returned to the lineup for the game at Phoenix, a 3-2 win. D’Agostini skated alongside center Phil Varone and left wing Marcus Foligno. He was playing with Cody Hodgson and Steve Ott when he put up two goals and four points in four games when the injury came.
“It was just a little twisting motion,” D’Agostini said in Jobing.com Arena. “I never had one of those strains before. It took awhile to come back from, but I’m feeling good now.”
The 27-year-old, picked up off waivers from Pittsburgh in late November, finally felt comfortable in Buffalo when the ailment struck. Though the production was nice, it was more than that.
“It’s not the points that I’m concerned about,” he said. “It’s just skating hard on pucks. My legs were really coming around. I was feeling good out there. We had some good games where we established a good forecheck. We got our chances and goals from that, so I’m just hoping to get back to the same things I was doing.”
The Sabres played without defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who was sick. He skipped the morning skate and was still unavailable at game time.
Like D’Agostini, Drew Stafford was putting up points and playing well when an injury struck. Though he skated with the team in the morning, Stafford missed his third straight game and was put on injured reserve to make room for D’Agostini.
“He’s ‘almost,’ ” coach Ted Nolan said of Stafford.
Also watching the game were injured Cody McCormick and healthy scratches John Scott and Linus Omark.
The journey to Arizona and Colorado, where the Sabres play Saturday afternoon, is being enjoyed by the players’ parents, relatives or mentors on the annual “Parents’ Trip.” The final count is three fathers, five mothers, one stepmother, a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, one brother, an uncle and one mentor.
“It’s fun,” said D’Agostini, who is joined by his dad, Vincent. “You try to explain how you live on the road to them, but for them to experience it firsthand and come on chartered flights, stay in the first-class hotels, sit by the pool … my dad’s coming from Sault St. Marie, Ont., where it’s 10-feet-high snow banks. It’s nice for him to get out, sit by the pool for a couple days and have some fun.”
Nolan was invited to two similar trips by his sons Brandon, who played in Carolina, and Jordan, who plays for Los Angeles, but he was unable to go. He sees the allure as a parent and coach.
“It’s a great event,” Nolan said. “You get to find out a little bit more about your athletes versus just seeing what you have here. You get to talk to the parents and find out some little quirks or little things of where they grew up, so it’s all good.”
The Sabres didn’t have much time to get accustomed to the two-hour time change. They arrived Wednesday afternoon and will fly home after the matinee.
“A couple of them said they got up a little earlier,” Nolan said. “I said you should have just stayed up later. It all equals out.”
Nolan, who doesn’t see much use in complaining, doesn’t want to hear any excuses about being in the Mile High City starting today.
“Everybody says in Colorado the air is thinner and it’s tough to breathe,” Nolan said. “All those things, I think if you put your mind to it you can adjust to anything.”