Started game with Eichel and Olof­s­son

The Buffalo News - - NHL -

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Pom­inville said, his voice quiv­er­ing. “I’ve re­ally en­joyed ev­ery mo­ment. I don’t know what the fu­ture holds but en­joy the next cou­ple days and hope­fully get an­other win and take a step back and make some de­ci­sions.”

Pom­inville is a pend­ing un­re­stricted free agent and was a healthy scratch three times dur­ing the Sabres’ two-win March. He re­mained com­posed when asked about his hockey fu­ture through­out the sea­son, in­clud­ing the days lead­ing up to Fe­bru­ary’s trade dead­line.

Though Pom­inville’s nomove­ment clause as­sured he could not be traded with­out his per­mis­sion, the for­mer team cap­tain in­sisted he had no de­sire to leave Buf­falo. He will not com­mit to ex­tend­ing his play­ing ca­reer be­yond Satur­day’s sea­son fi­nale, adding that he planned to wait un­til he could speak to his fam­ily.

His re­ac­tion Thurs­day morn­ing in­di­cated this could be the end, at least in the city he has called home for much of his ca­reer. Fol­low­ing a typ­i­cal morn­ing skate, Pom­inville be­came emo­tional when broached with the topic. His voice quiv­ered un­til he fi­nally could not hold back the tears.

He wiped at his eyes, took a deep breath and did not re­turn to the dress­ing room af­ter tak­ing time to com­pose him­self. Pom­inville po­litely asked the me­dia re­la­tions’ staff to as­sure re­porters he would be open to speak­ing af­ter the con­clu­sion of the game against the Se­na­tors.

The emo­tions hov­ered over Pom­inville through­out the af­ter­noon. He served as an al­ter­nate cap­tain with de­fense­man Zach Bo­gosian in­jured and, along with Kyle Ok­poso, es­corted 95-year-old fan Anna Marie Szczepan­ski to cen­ter ice for the cer­e­mo­nial puck drop on “Fan Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Night.”

Then Pom­inville pro­ceeded to play with the same zeal that he has shown since being drafted 55th over­all by the Sabres in 2001. Af­ter start­ing the game along­side Eichel and Vic­tor Olof­s­son, Pom­inville joined the fourth line with Jo­han Lars­son and Zem­gus Gir­gen­sons.

The Sabres gen­er­ated 18 shot at­tempts dur­ing 5-on-5 play with Pom­inville’s line on the ice, while hold­ing the Se­na­tors to seven. Eichel’s third point of the night, his 28th goal of the sea­son, gave them a two-goal lead with 8:54 re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion, yet the ova­tion that fol­lowed paled in com­par­i­son to the one for Pom­inville.

Pom­inville took over sole pos­ses­sion for 10th in fran­chise his­tory with his 217th ca­reer goal, when his shot from near the right-wing boards caught Ot­tawa goalie Joey Dac­cord off guard.

“It was def­i­nitely nice to see that and to get that type of ova­tion for sure,” Pom­inville re­called. “I’m def­i­nitely not the type of guy that likes that type of at­ten­tion but the boys were giv­ing me the sig­nal to go to the mid­dle and give a wave, so I thank every­one for that for sure.”

Pom­inville ranks fourth on the Sabres with 16 goals and has 14 as­sists with a mi­nus-5 rat­ing while av­er­ag­ing a ca­reer­low 12 min­utes, 30 sec­onds in 72 games. That pro­duc­tion does not match his six 20-goal sea­sons be­fore he was traded to Min­nesota in 2013.

He and the Sabres have en­dured back-to-back try­ing sea­sons since his re­turn in June 2017, how­ever, Pom­inville has proven ca­pa­ble of con­tribut­ing in a va­ri­ety of roles and his work ethic al­lowed him to be one of the sport’s iron men. Pom­inville has not played fewer than 73 games in a non-lock­out-short­ened sea­son since 2005-06.

“He’s a re­mark­able per­son, num­ber one,” coach Phil Hous­ley said. “He’s a con­sum­mate team­mate, a true pro­fes­sional. Does what we ask him to do with no hes­i­ta­tion. Just has a great at­ti­tude when he comes to the rink and he does things the right way. It’s been in­valu­able to have his lead­er­ship in our room. Ob­vi­ously we have two games to be played here and those things will take care of them­selves, but I’ve just been thrilled to have him as part of our group.”

When the Sabres hosted Ot­tawa on Nov. 3, Kim and Terry Peg­ula com­mem­o­rated Pom­inville’s 1,000th ca­reer game by gift­ing him a sil­ver Sabre. He pro­ceeded to score two goals in a 9-2 vic­tory over the Se­na­tors. Only 17 ac­tive play­ers have ap­peared in more NHL games and only 21 have scored more goals.

For his longevity and pas­sion­ate lead­er­ship on a young team this sea­son, Pom­inville was named the Buf­falo chap­ter of the Pro­fes­sional Hockey Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s nominee for the Master­ton Tro­phy, which is awarded an­nu­ally to the player who “best ex­em­pli­fies the qual­i­ties of per­se­ver­ance, sports­man­ship and ded­i­ca­tion to ice hockey.”

Be­fore de­part­ing what he’ll al­ways re­mem­ber as his home arena, he had one more mes­sage to the fans.

“Thank you for ev­ery­thing,” he said. “I left prob­a­bly in tears, came back with a smile, and who knows what’s going to hap­pen now. Def­i­nitely en­joyed ev­ery mo­ment of it.”

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