Have you ever been ready to head out the door – say to go Christmas shopping – and mom or dad throws you an extra $50 and says, “son/daughter, go buy yourself something nice.”
That's how Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy had to feel when he found out the Buffalo Sabres were sending him defenseman Brayden McNabb for Wednesday night's game against the Utica Comets – a team that beat Rochester in each of the last two meetings.
Well, you better believe Cassidy bought himself something nice. Three points worth from McNabb in Rochester's 6-1 win at Blue Cross Arena.
“They were pretty specific about him going back,” Cassidy said after the win. “He deserves it. I'm happy for him. He and Luke did a great job here and you want guys to play at that level. That's what we're here for.”
The third-year pro has been asked to be an offensive force in Rochester, play big power play and penalty kill minutes whereas in Buffalo, he's been asked to play a different game.
“It's always different when you play up there,” Cassidy said. “You play a little more conservative no matter who you are. He plays the same type of game but his responsibility isn't on the offensive side of things...eventually he'll have that type of role at that level.”
McNabb opened the scoring for the Amerks in the first period with a nifty play. He stepped up to grab a bouncing puck, then stick-handled around a charging defender and ripped a wrist shot into the top corner. Rick Jeanneret would have loved it.
“It was good to play,” McNabb said. “Haven't played in awhile so it was nice to get out there and play a game.”
The Amerks/Sabres defenseman was named first star. He's expected to be in the lineup against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Kevin Porter continued his terrific play on Wednesday night, scoring his fourth goal in the last four games. In the second period, he received a high floating pass from defenseman Nick Crawford on a breakout, raced in on goal and ripped a wrist shot glove side.
Turns out the rugby-style play was by design.
“They are one of the strongest forechecking teams,” Cassidy said. “They seem to be on top of us all the time so we try to break their forecheck by going over the top on them whether it's off the glass or a high flip.”
He now has seven points in eight games. Since joining the Amerks last year, he's played 56 games and has 51 points. Not bad.
“I tried to chip in while in Buffalo but it's a little tougher there, so coming down here and getting some confidence and scoring some goals is nice,” Porter said.
The Amerks' No. 1 center spent a great deal of his ice time with rookie Joel Armia, who assisted on his second goal. The Finnish rookie winger's pass was a beauty across ice that set up Porter right in front of the Utica net.
“He's been playing great,” Porter said. “He's got great vision, great shot too. He makes nice plays so get the puck on his stick and he's going to find you.”
Armia played a strong, confident game. But some old habits are dying hard, including the want to take on opponents 1-on-1 and stick-handle through multiple defender – something Cassidy says he'll have to break in order to take the next step.
-Johan Larsson was a scratch with an “upper body” injury. He's day to day
-Rasmus Ristolainen is out with an “upper body” injury believed to be a concussion. No word on when he'll return
-Jerome Gauthier-Leduc was a healthy scratch. Cassidy wouldn't answer to whether it was a message, but Gauthier-Leduc's defensive play has been well below the level required to be successful at the AHL level.
-Following the game, forward Freddy Roy joined the media scrum to help interview Kevin Sundher. He asked two questions in French, to which Sundher responded, "I don't know French." Freddy has a future in media after hockey - no kidding.