For Buffalo Sabres forward Matt Ellis, the last seven days have been the opposite of the famous Jay-z line: “It was all good just a week ago.”
A week ago, things weren't as good. Ellis was captain of the Rochester Amerks, about to lead them into a mid-week game against the Lake Erie Monsters.
They had dropped the previous two games to the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins and were hoping to gain some momentum heading into the Frozen Frontier game – a Friday night match-up with Lake Erie played outdoors at Rochester's baseball stadium Frontier Field.
The Amerks won last Wednesday's game against Lake Erie. Then Ellis' Best Week Ever began.
On Friday night, he opened up the scoring in front of more than 11,000 at Frontier Field. The game eventually landed in a shootout, in which head coach Chadd Cassidy tabbed him for his first shootout attempt ever.
It just so happened to be the clincher to give the Amerks a 5-4 win.
While the team was standing on the ice celebrating, Cassidy let Ellis know he'd be headed to Buffalo for the first time in almost a year.
Then on Tuesday night, Ellis deflected a shot into the Winnipeg Jets' net for his first goal since late 2012.
“It's been a bit of a whirlwind,” Ellis said, sitting under his Sabres nameplate. “Last weekend was an emotional one, starting with the outdoor game, which was a great experience and very enjoyable game. To get a recall here was the icing on the cake. Any time I get to pull this jersey over my head there's a lot of pride and thankfulness that goes along with it. I haven't taken a day of my career for granted.”
Ellis was paired with Brian Flynn and Kevin Porter against the Jets. The line not only generated a goal but was on the ice for six shots for and only four shots against.
“They gave us what we needed,” interim head coach Ted Nolan said. “They were reliable, they were safe, they created some energy, they had the puck in the opposition's zone, they worked their defense a little bit. It was everything we asked and then it was a bonus that they gave us a goal.”
Porter added speed to a Sabres fourth line that was regularly getting beat up in the shot differential category. During his time in Rochester, the 27-year-old forward scored six goals in 13 games.
He said the time in Rochester playing big offensive minutes helped him be in tune to get back on the scoresheet – a place he was unable to find in nine games in the NHL earlier this year.
“You go down there and you get some confidence,” Porter said. “When you score some goals, you get that touch back a little bit. That definitely helps. When you're here for a bit and don't get as many chances and you don't score as many goals, you kind of lose sight of that and lose some of that confidence.”
Porter played well in his stint with Buffalo last season, posting solid defensive numbers (only Marcus Foligno had fewer shots on goal against per 60 minutes than Porter last season) and adding nine points in 31 games.
The Sabres have strung together five games in a row with positive shot differentials. When they face the Bruins, that streak may end. Boston averages 29.9 shots per game for and 28.7 against compared to Buffalo's 26.2 for and 33.9 against.
“We just can't turn the puck over,” Porter said. “We have to get it deep. The more we get it deep and pressure their D and have offensive zone play, we're going to get more shots.”
“I looked at the shots against previous to me being here,” Nolan said. “A lot of shots, I don't know if the opposition earned them or if we just gave it to them. There were a lot of turnovers.”
It's unclear how long Ellis, Porter, Flynn will be together. Cody McCormick is expected to return in 4-to-6 weeks and Nolan said Mark Pysyk will be returning to Buffalo soon.
If the line keeps performing like they did against Winnipeg, it will be hard to break them up. Of course, Winnipeg is 23rd in the NHL in puck possession and one of the West's worse teams. So they'll have to do a lot of proving against Boston.