ICYMI: Stars 3, Sabres 1

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Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma knew that Zach Bogosian was going to return to the lineup this week, he just wasn’t sure for what game. After a strong practice Tuesday morning, where Bogosian was deliberately put in several 5-on-5 situations to prepare him for his upcoming games, Bylsma granted the 25-year-old defensemen his season debut for Buffalo in their meeting with the Dallas Stars.

Bogosian missed the opening 17 games of the season due to a lingering lower-body injury—a wait he clearly didn’t enjoy. He noted that fellow Sabre Cody McCormick, who hasn’t played since January due to blood clots, has helped him keep his nerve during the hiatus. Rehab workouts with pro scout Dennis Miller also prepped him for his return.

“Cody McCormick has helped out a lot as well, on and off the ice,” Bogosian said. “More for my sanity and not being around the guys, but it’s nice having him around and he’s a great team guy so both of those guys have been a part of me coming back as well as the training staff.”

Tuesday night’s game against a red-hot Dallas Stars was a good litmus test for him. Bogosian played over 21 minutes and registered two shots on goal. He wasn’t even afraid to drop to the ice in a sprawl so he could foil a threatening 2-on-1 rush by the Stars by one point.

“We know he’s a good skating defensemen, and a big body back there,” said Bylsma following Tuesday’s game. “He’s a factor all over the ice, offensively and defensively with his skating. It’s his first game since April, it’s been a long time that he hasn’t played a game. I think you saw him get his feet wet a little bit in some situations, some reads.”

Bogosian was nothing short of a workhorse while playing for Buffalo last year. Despite only playing in 21 games for the Sabres, he finished the year leading the team in average time on ice with more than 26 minutes a game. There were several nights where he logged 29, even 30 minutes of action.

That was with what was a decidedly weaker defense core than what the Sabres have playing for them now, thanks to additions at the blue line like Cody Franson, and more frequent appearances by young upstars like Jake McCabe and Mark Psysk. The improved defense core likely means that Bogosian won’t need to be spending half a game on the ice every night this year. But if he has to, the Sabres at least have one of the most capable in the NHL with him.

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