BUFFALO — The praise was muted, voiced in the gloom that was the Winnipeg Jets’ latest loss, a 4-2 decision to the lowly Buffalo Sabres, but there’s an enthusiasm developing for rookie Mark Scheifele’s emerging offensive instincts in the NHL.
The 20-year-old centre had two goals in a 36-second span early in the second period to stake his team to a 2-0 lead it could not put in the bank.
Scheifele, the seventh overall pick of 2011, scored three times on this quick two-game road trip and now has six on the season.
"It was just a matter of time before you knew he was going to bust out somewhere," said Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. "He’s been doing good lately. I think that whole line has been good, Kaner (Evander Kane) coming back and jumping on there. They’ve been good. We’ve just got to keep going and look at the positives and keep working."
Even Jets coach Claude Noel, who usually holds back in such areas, had encouraging words.
"Scheifele made a couple of really nice plays," the coach said of the goals at 1:02 and 1:38 of the second, both well-placed high shots past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. "He was probably our best player.
"That line with Kane, (Michael) Frolik and Scheifele was our best line and I thought Scheifele showed why he was a top draft pick. And Evander, this was his second game; I thought he played pretty well."
Scheifele didn’t seem all that happy after the game.
"Just had the puck in a good scoring area and was able to put it home," he said glumly, the loss eating at him. "My wingers did a good job of getting to the net. I was just happy to put it in."
The third period, which the Jets started ahead 2-1, was particularly disappointing.
"I think their goal right off the bat was a big heartbreaker," he said. "We didn’t respond, and that’s where we lost it."
Monday night was the 18th NHL game for Jets rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba.
And it marked his first official NHL fight. He tangled with Manitoba product Matt Calvert in the game’s second minute in Columbus, responding to a hit Calvert put on Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom.
"I don’t know, it was just early in the game and you don’t want to see someone get hit like that that early, especially one of our best players," Trouba said. "It wasn’t anything. It just kind of happened. I just went along with it."
Trouba hadn’t fought since he played in the USHL for the U.S. development program team.
Tuesday marked the first NHL game for 23-year-old centre Eric O’Dell, who’s been performing very well for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.
He got the call late Monday night but couldn’t make it to Buffalo until Tuesday after lunch.
With seven shifts for 4 minutes 39 seconds, it wasn’t a large body of work.
O’Dell has 12 goals and 29 points in the AHL so far this season, leading the IceCaps.