After being traded to the Florida Panthers in July, Sam Reinhart said he has no hard feelings towards the Buffalo Sabres.
He made a point to reach out to Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams the day after the trade was made during the 2021 NHL Draft.
“I thought it was important to reach out to him when we’ve had a little more time to digest a little bit,” Reinhart said.
“It’s not a 20-second conversation. I respect him, I respect everyone that’s still there. So, no hard feelings.”
With his first matchup against his former team coming Thursday night in Sunrise, Reinhart says he is ready to get back on the ice and face off against his former teammates.
“I’m pretty excited,” Reinhart said following Thursday’s morning skate
“I was there quite a long time and it was the only place I’d known, a lot of friendships that have kept going even though I’m in a new organization, those go a lot further off the ice.
“All of the staff they have there all are all great guys and it’s just been nice being able to catch up the last couple of days.”
While he would have preferred the first matchup against the Sabres to be in Buffalo, Reinhart is ready to get on the ice and play against his former team.
“Probably [would] be feeling a little more, just with the overall environment being back in Buffalo,” Reinhart said. “I spent a lot of years there, but I’m just looking forward to getting back and playing another one tonight.”
The adjustment period came with a quick turnaround. Reinhart started training camp with a new team for the first time since being drafted by Buffalo.
Injuries in the Panthers’ lineup also caused Reinhart to move up and down the lineup and play with different players.
“I think there’s been a lot of turnover so far, a lot of mixing and matching, a couple of injuries that we’ve had to juggle things here and there,” Reinhart said.
“But I think the important thing about this group is the depth, from a forward’s perspective, there’s a lot of guys that you can play with, a lot of guys you can create chances with out there, so it’s been fun.”
Interim coach Andrew Brunette is impressed with how Reinhart dealt with the change and settled into South Florida.
“It’s always hard to change teams and I think he’s a real cerebral player,” Brunette said. “I think it’s hard to find chemistry with guys, it’s hard to know where you fit and with the success we had last year, he’s just trying to find his way and it gets a little difficult.
“I think he’s done a great job. We move him all over the place, we’re still trying to figure him out a little bit too, but every line he goes on, he generates offense one way or another.”
Brandon Montour, someone he shared the ice with in Buffalo for parts of three seasons, was already with the Panthers after being traded there during the 2021 trade deadline.
Montour was excited to welcome his former teammate to town following the trade.
“It was great, he’s a great guy off the ice, he said. “We’re friends and obviously, on the ice, you could see his talent. So both sides, off-ice and on-ice, it’s great to have him on our side.”
Montour was a free agent at the time of the trade but was already looking to re-sign with the Panthers before the trade was even made.
“No, the Panthers were always on the list,” Montour said when asked if Reinhart’s arrival had anything to do with his decision to re-sign.
“We were going to figure out some way to sign, adding Sam helped, but just from last year, the end of the year, experiencing the time I had here, there was no brainer that I was gonna end up going back.”
Having a familiar face on the team – a friend, as Montour described – helped Reinhart’s transition to the Panthers as well.
“I think it helps the transition for sure,” Brunette said. “It makes you feel a bit more comfortable, a familiar face, somebody that you know and knows you a little bit.
“[Montour] was here last year, so he was able to bring [Reinhart] into the group and the transition seems seamless.”
Since arriving in Florida, Reinhart has become a key member of the Panthers’ lineup, scoring five goals, totaling 13 points in 22 games on the season.
“I’ve really been impressed with his play without the puck and his game management,” Brunette said. “He’s a smart player, but he seems to get the big moments when to put the pucks in the right areas and some of those little things that really help our hockey club.”
On Tuesday, he had one of those big moments, scoring the game-winning goal with 14.4 seconds left in regulation to cap off a four-goal comeback in a 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals.
“Feels great to complete that comeback and win in regulation,” Reinhart said. “For that crowd tonight, it’s a big one for us.”
Gus Forsling began skating for the first time since he was placed on injured reserve on Sunday.
Brunette says that he’s still ‘week-to-week’ and will be evaluated tomorrow.
Anthony Duclair was not out there for morning skate after skating on Tuesday.
Brunette says he remains ‘day-to-day’ while not experiencing any setbacks. He hopes to have Duclair back for practice on Friday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
BUFFALO SABRES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Buffalo leads 52-44-5, 4 ties
- Odds via BetMGM: Florida favored (PL -1.5 -115) — (ML -300) — U/O 6
- Up next: St. Louis at Florida, Saturday, 1; Buffalo at Carolina, Saturday, 7:30