Seven days ago, Luke Adam scored two goals against the Utica Comets. The post-game sentiment from Adam and his coach was that this year will be different from the last two.
Friday night at Blue Cross Arena, Adam doubled down.
He scored another goal, notched two assists and upped his season total to four goals, two assists, 19 shots and plus-1.
Last season it took 17 games for the Amerks' winger to get to six points. It took him nine games to get to 19 shots.
“It's amazing what happens when you shoot the puck,” coach Chadd Cassidy said following Rochester's 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies.
Adam's blazing start to the season brings up two questions: Is it for real? Should he be in Buffalo?
There are clear differences in the former second-round pick's demeanor. Last year, he continued to assert that he is a center and belongs in the NHL. He's let that go. He's stopped worrying about every move in Buffalo and focused simply on playing harder and scoring AHL goals.
Matt Ellis has had a front row seat for Adam's entire pro career – playing on the same line in Portland when he won the AHL Rookie of the Year, seeing him succeed in the NHL, seeing him fail in the NHL and seeing him re-emerge in the AHL.
“I see a lot of that fire that's returned in Luke,” Ellis said. “He's not thinking, he's just playing. He's a kid that has great instincts and the ability to be a game-changer. No one's path is the same. You see guys that end up on top without adversity and see guys that battle adversity.
“Luke's had some highs and some lows but the start he's had this year – he's just worried about playing hockey and controlling what he can control.”
Ellis, the team's captain and the clear-cut most respected player in the locker room, said he and Adam have spoken frequently about the highs and lows. The difference, from his perspective, is attitude. From Cassidy's point of view, there's more to it.
Lindy Ruff highly criticized Adam's defensive play, all but calling him a liability in his own zone. Cassidy says he's improved significantly in that area of his game.
“It's piggybacked off last year,” the Amerks' coach said. “I really thought he did a great job at the end of last year, he was one of the key guys blocking shots and getting pucks out. This is a continuation. He's taken a huge step.”
Now about question No.2.
The Sabres are in a situation where you could make an argument for many players to be moved out or sent down. They need scoring badly with only 11 goals in nine games. They are playing veterans John Scott and Cody McCormick on the fourth line – neither of which adds any offense or is part of the long-term plan.
So it isn't hard to get to “call up Adam to help goal scoring.”
The argument against it may be that, well, the Amerks are pretty darn good. The Marlies came into Friday night's game undefeated and they were outplayed by Rochester's club. Might it be better for Adam to play most of the season in Rochester, help the team to the playoffs, see some NHL time at the end and return to the Amerks for a playoff run?
It's hard to say what the plan will be, but if Luke Adam continues to play like he has through four games, he'll force the Sabres' hand or earn himself a spot somewhere else.
-Nathan Leiuwen started his first game of the year and was nothing short of outstanding. The prospect netminder stopped 36 of 37, many of which came shorthanded.
“I could clean up a couple rebounds a little better,” he said. “It's just about doing this every day, going out like it's a game and working my butt off, getting every bit of opportunity and taking it.”
-Dan Catenacci scored just nine seconds into the game, finishing off a 3-on-2. His skating and skills around the net are showing through early in the season.
-Jerome Gauthier-Leduc played his best game as a professional hockey player. He was much stronger around the boards and in his own zone than he's been.
-Phil Varone created chances for the Amerks throughout and played a great deal of minutes on special teams. He scored on a breakaway from an outstanding exit pass from Chad Ruhwedel.
“I saw it got blocked and blew the zone knowing we were going to get the puck, he made a great play getting it to me and I put it in.”
-Freddy Roy's dad was in attendance. Maybe you've heard of him. Patrick Roy. Freddy won a fight decidedly, again showing his fearlessness despite lack of size. But he also played a strong game, making a strong effort along the wall and working hard away from the puck.
Freddy said after the game that it was the first time Patrick had seen him play professionally.
The Amerks next play Saturday night against Utica.