Buffalo began a two-day break this morning by demoting three players to their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. The Sabres announced that they have returned forwards Nicholas Baptiste and Cole Schneider and defenseman Justin Falk to the minors. The trio will get some play time right away, as the Americans head to Springfield this afternoon to take on the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Florida Panthers new AHL affiliate.
Baptiste is a somewhat surprising move, as the rookie right winger has played in ten games with Buffalo thus far in 2016-17. Although he averages less than nine minutes of ice time per game, Baptiste has contributed two goals and has looked like a naturals fit on the Sabres’ fourth line with his physical play. A third-round pick in 2013, Baptiste put up strong offensive numbers in the OHL, so if he can re-discover more of an all-around game in Rochester, expect Baptiste to be back in Buffalo shortly.
The demotion of Schneider is more understandable, as the 26-year-old has simply not been able to stick at the NHL level. The UConn product joined the AHL’s Binghamton Senators in 2012 and has been a consistent minor league producer ever since. Schneider excels playing in the crease, using his physical presence to clean up rebounds and put up big points. However, that skill set never earned him a call-up to Ottawa in parts of five seasons, and was traded to Buffalo as part of a seven-player depth swap last February. Schneider finally got the long-awaited promotion late last season, but went scoreless in his two-game tryout. He got another chance this season, but in just two more games had an assist and played in less than 16 minutes total. Schneider is a proven commodity in the AHL, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can put it all together at the highest level.
Journeyman blue liner Falk signed on with Buffalo this summer knowing that his role was that of a #8 NHL defenseman or top pair AHL defenseman. When everyone is healthy, the Sabres have a solid top six and Falk was just brought in to compete for play time should injuries occur. With Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian having missed time, Falk was able to get into two games in Buffalo thus far, but has yet to record a point or make much of a difference in his own end. Now in his eighth NHL season, the 28-year-old has bounced around the league, spending most of his years (121 games) with the team that drafted him, the Minnesota Wild, who also traded him two separate times. Falk has moved on to Buffalo, but without much of a physical game or offensive ability, it seems likely that he will remain in Rochester unless called upon again due to multiple injuries. Just one year removed from playing 24 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Falk’s NHL opportunities are beginning to run out.
With Evander Kane activated from the injured reserve and Kulikov and Bogosian on the mend, the Sabres felt that using their off days to give some fringe players a game or two in the AHL was the right move. Buffalo has made several call-ups so far in 2016-17, so don’t be surprised to see one or more of these players or other “Amerks” brought back up prior to Buffalo’s road trip on Tuesday.