Thomp­son sent down to pick up ‘mean­ing ful min­utes’

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Lance Lysowski NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

As the Buf­falo Sabres were leav­ing KeyBank Cen­ter early Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Tage Thomp­son was step­ping on the ice for his first prac­tice in Rochester.

His first sea­son in Buf­falo likely came to an end when the 21-year-old winger was as­signed to the Amerks. Thomp­son had seven goals and five as­sists with a mi­nus-22 rat­ing in 65 games dur­ing his first sea­son with the Sabres.

Thomp­son had been ex­pected to join Rochester at the end of the Sabres’ reg­u­lar sea­son since they made him el­i­gi­ble for the AHL play­offs last month, and the as­sign­ment will al­low him to be­come ac­cli­mated with his new team­mates as they fight for a North Di­vi­sion ti­tle over the fi­nal eight games.

Rather than fill­ing a bot­tom-six role in the NHL, Thomp­son will be given the op­por­tu­nity to play what coach Phil Hous­ley called “mean­ing­ful min­utes.”

“I think it’s all part of his devel­op­ment and his plan,” Hous­ley ex­plained. “He got some mean­ing­ful games up here, did a re­ally good job, but it gives him a chance to get ac­quainted with his new team­mates, get some mean­ing­ful min­utes and get ready for the play­offs.”

Thomp­son, a 6-5 for­mer firstround draft pick, strug­gled with the phys­i­cal de­mands of an NHL sea­son. He did not forecheck with enough con­sis­tency and re­lied too much on his in­di­vid­ual skill in the of­fen­sive zone.

One promis­ing game was of­ten fol­lowed by one with lit­tle con­tri­bu­tions. In ad­di­tion to strug­gling de­fen­sively, Thomp­son lacked strength along the boards since he has yet to fill out his lanky frame. He was ac­quired from St. Louis as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade last July and had three goals with six as­sists with the Blues last sea­son.

Thomp­son played just 12 min­utes, 18 sec­onds in a 4-0 loss in Ottawa on Tues­day and av­er­aged 12 min­utes, 8 sec­onds this sea­son. He had zero goals and one as­sist with a mi­nus-12 rat­ing in his last 22 games.

Rather than insert Scott Wil­son into the lineup with Evan Ro­drigues also day-to-day be­cause an up­per­body in­jury, the Sabres elected to pro­mote winger Vic­tor Olof­s­son from Rochester on Wed­nes­day. Olof­s­son, 23, had 27 goals among a team-high 60 points in 64 games with the Amerks. A for­mer sev­enth-round draft pick, he had a break­out sea­son a year ago by scor­ing 27 goals as a team­mate of Ras­mus Dahlin’s with Frol­unda HC of the Swedish Hockey League.

“That I’m good enough to play up here,” Olof­s­son said when asked what he hoped to show the Sabres in his first NHL op­por­tu­nity.

De­fense­man Jake McCabe, who was ex­pected to miss five-to-six weeks with an up­per-body in­jury, par­tic­i­pated as an ex­tra in the Sabres’ morn­ing skate Thurs­day. He had not played in a game since a 5-0 loss to the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins on March 14 but has skated with re­hab and devel­op­ment coach Den­nis Miller for roughly two weeks.

McCabe, who has four goals with 10 as­sists and a mi­nus-7 rat­ing in 55 games, is hope­ful he can get enough prac­tice time in to ap­pear in one of the Sabres’ fi­nal games this sea­son.

“I’d like to get into a cou­ple prac­tices here,” McCabe said. “We ob­vi­ously don’t have a lot of games here. It’s been tough for me to at least get a prac­tice with the team since we haven’t been prac­tic­ing a ton. Yeah, hope­fully I’ll prac­tice to­mor­row and take it day by day, re­ally. It’s gone re­ally well to this point, so I’m just tak­ing it day by day and im­prov­ing ev­ery day.”

De­fense­men Zach Bo­gosian (lower body), Matt Hun­wick (up­per body) and Ras­mus Ris­to­lainen (ill­ness) did not skate and were not avail­able to play Thurs­day night against Detroit.

Winger Ja­son Pom­inville was named the Buf­falo chap­ter of the Pro­fes­sional Hockey Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s nom­i­nee for the Master­ton Tro­phy.

The Bill Master­ton Memo­rial Tro­phy is awarded an­nu­ally to the NHL player who “best ex­em­pli­fies the qual­i­ties of per­se­ver­ance, sports­man­ship and ded­i­ca­tion to ice hockey.” All 31 PHWA chap­ters nom­i­nate one player, and the win­ner will be cho­sen among three fi­nal­ists in June.

“Def­i­nitely nice to be able to rep­re­sent the team,” Pom­inville, 36, said shortly af­ter re­ceiv­ing the news Thurs­day morn­ing. “I think it’s a tro­phy that rep­re­sents a lot of per­se­ver­ance and ded­i­ca­tion. So to have a chance to be nom­i­nated and rep­re­sent the team, city is def­i­nitely an honor.”

With three Sabres de­fense­men un­avail­able Thurs­day against the Red Wings, de­fense­man Matt Ten­nyson was re­called from Rochester.

Ten­nyson, 28, had a mi­nus-4 rat­ing in four games with the Sabres ear­lier this sea­son. He had four goals with 16 as­sists and a mi­nus-7 rat­ing in 45 games with the Amerks. En­ter­ing Thurs­day, Ten­nyson had 20 points in 124 NHL games.

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