BUFFALO, N.Y. – Eager to show he’s fully recovered from a concussion, Sabres forward Jason Pominville went out of his way to tangle with teammate Paul Gaustad along the boards in practice Monday.
“Just trying to get involved and see how it will react, and it was fine,” said Pominville, who’s been cleared to play after missing nine games. “It’s a good relief.”
The Sabres (3-7-2) could use some in preparing to host Northeast Division rival Boston on Wednesday.
They’re 0-4-1 at Buffalo, joining New Jersey as one of the NHL’s two teams who have yet to win a home game. And they’re coming off a four-game road trip in which they went 1-2-1, capped by a 4-0 loss at Dallas on Saturday.
Pominville is a top-line forward, who has also played a key role on special teams. Though he began skating with the team last week, Pominville was finally cleared after passing a concussion-related visual test before practice.
He’s been out since a 4-3 loss to Chicago on Oct. 11, when he was hit partially from behind and sent headfirst into the boards by Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson. The defenceman was ejected from the game for the hit and eventually served an NHL-imposed two-game suspension.
Pominville said he felt helpless watching his team struggle.
“It’s definitely not the start we wanted,” he said. “But we can’t sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to look ahead of us.”
Pominville won’t be the only new addition to the Sabres lineup.
Coach Lindy Ruff also announced that captain Craig Rivet will return to action on Wednesday after the defenceman was a healthy scratch for poor play the previous two games.
One question mark is goalie Ryan Miller, who missed practice Monday due to what Ruff referred to as a “lower body injury.” Ruff said Miller had treatment over the weekend, and was given an additional day off.
Miller is expected to return to practice on Tuesday to determine whether he can play against the Bruins.
The Sabres also announced Monday that they’ve signed 2009 first-round draft pick Zack Kassian to a three-year entry level contract. The 19-year-old is a hard-hitting forward who was drafted 13th overall, and is playing for his hometown Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
The signing comes a week after Kassian completed 25 hours of community service as a part of a plea agreement he reached to have an assault charge dropped in Windsor. The charge was in connection to a bar fight in May, when Kassian punched and chipped a man’s tooth.
The Sabres had suspended contract negotiations with Kassian in June as a result of the fight. The Sabres reopened talks after the player expressed his remorse and following a solid training camp in Buffalo.
With Pominville’s return, Ruff elected to shake up his lines in a bid to provide his team a spark. Pominville will be on a line with centre Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht. Tim Connolly will centre Buffalo’s other top line alongside Thomas Vanek and Patrick Kaleta.
Ruff was so unhappy with the Sabres performance in October, he was eager to turn the page of the calendar.
“There’s not a damn thing we can do about that. That’s behind us,” Ruff said. “There’s not one person that’s happy about it, including myself. I find it embarrassing, and we’ve moved on. I told the team we’re going to focus on one game.”