TORONTO — Tyler Myers was in the starting lineup Wednesday night and less than 10 seconds after the opening faceoff in Air Canada Centre, he was charging right for the net. He also made a beautiful cross-ice pass to set up Matt Ellis’ second-period goal.
He was a key cog, along with Mike Weber and Steve Ott, on the trio that killed an overtime penalty. And he nearly scored the game-winner on the tail end of a 3-on-1 break after that kill.
All in all, it was a pretty big night for the 6-foot-8 Buffalo defenseman as he made immediate impact upon his return from a three-game suspension.
“That’s the way I want to try to play every game,” Myers said after the 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It’s a matter of bringing that confidence from game to game and also the mindset and energy. I liked the fact we didn’t back off at any point and kept pushing no matter what the situation was.”
Myers played 26:02, his second-highest ice time of the season. He had three shots on goal, four hits, blocked two shots and posted a plus-1 rating.
Interim coach Ted Nolan called it one of Myers’ best games all season.
“You could tell how much you miss a player and how significant he was tonight,” Nolan said. “He played with pizzazz, he played with some energy and he was very aggressive. It was a great game.”
On his chance in OT, Myers took a nifty Brian Flynn feed and came streaking down the slot. But Toronto goalie James Reimer beat him with a quick pad save.
“I wish I would have buried that one,” Myers said. “It would have been real nice after a kill like that. Nice play by Flynnie.”
Myers was playing some of his best hockey of the season before being forced to take a seat. It was the second suspension of his career but don’t look for him to change his style.
“I’m not the type of guy that’s reckless or looking to injure somebody,” Myers said. “On that play, I was just trying to be aggressive.”
“We really like that mentality. I’m glad he said that,” said Nolan. “We don’t want him to lose that. We actually want him to be a little more aggressive. When I say aggressive, it’s aggressive carrying the puck, it’s aggressive shooting, skating. If he plays aggressive, he’s going to be a great player.”
Alexander Sulzer was a healthy scratch to allow Myers back into the lineup after he was on the ice for three of Philadelphia’s four goals Tuesday night.
John Scott returned to the lineup after two games as a healthy scratch and Drew Stafford came back after missing four games from an upper-body injury suffered from a Jan. 2 hit against Minnesota’s Matt Cooke.
Nolan said Marcus Foligno was “banged up” from the game against the Flyers and sat out. He is listed as day to day. Linus Omark was a healthy scratch.
With Stafford’s return, he joined the top line with Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis. Zemgus Girgensons was dropped to the No. 3 line with Ville Leino and Brian Flynn. The trio of Steve Ott, Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini stayed together while Scott joined Zenon Konopka and Matt Ellis on the fourth line.
But the lines were jumbled midway through the first period when D’Agostini left with an upper-body injury and did not return. Nolan had no update other than to say “it looks like it’s going to be a little while.”
Mikhail Grigorenko reported to the Quebec Remparts and was greeted by a large media contingent prior to his first practice Wednesday. The Remparts’ first game with Grigorenko in the lineup is Saturday.
“Right now I’m here and it’s the only place I want to be for right now,” Grigorenko said in video and print translated by Le Soleil, the Quebec City newspaper that covers the team.
“I’ll just work as hard as I can,” Grigorenko said. “We want to win everything here and help the game. I just want to be the kind of player where people say, ‘This guy works really hard.’ That would be good for me.”
Grigorenko said he was hoping the Sabres would let him play a couple games in the NHL after his return from the World Junior Championships but that did not happen.
With Girgensons’ second-period miss on a penalty shot, the Sabres remain without a goal on one since Thomas Vanek tallied against Ottawa on April 10, 2010. Ott was also stopped this season, Nov. 24 against Detroit. ... The Sabres trailed after the first period for the 25th time in 46 games and were down after 40 minutes for the 27th time ... New Sabres GM Tim Murray, a regular on the road since he was introduced last week, was in Calgary Wednesday attending the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, featuring 40 of the top Canadian juniors. It’s the game that’s equivalent to USA Hockey’s prospect showcase that First Niagara Center will host in September and again in September, 2015.