Prior to making his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins, T.J. Brennan said he wanted to focus on playing good defense.
While he certainly took care of his own end, the 22-year-old Brennan also scored his first NHL goal midway through the second period to become the first Sabres defenseman to score in his NHL debut since Buffalo Head Coach Lindy Ruff did so back on October 11, 1979.
“Roysie (Derek Roy) made a good play coming down the wall and I figured I could sneak down, and the next thing you know, the puck is there and before I could think about it I just took a shot,” Brennan said following the game when describing his goal to the media. “I was just glad to get it on net and try to help the team out.”
Brennan was paired on defense with Marc-Andre Gragnani, his teammate last year in Portland and the 2010-11 American Hockey League Defenseman of the Year. The familiarity seemed to help Brennan, who finished the game with 13:07 of ice time, four hits, two blocked shots and a +1 rating. He was not on the ice for any Boston goals during Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout loss.
“First couple of shifts I was a little nervous, but I thought it was good,” Brennan said. “’Grags’ really helped me out there and was talking to me all game, so was (Assistant Coach) James Patrick behind the bench, so they definitely made it easier for me. It stings to lose the first NHL game, but there’s some positives to take out of it.”
Ruff liked what he saw from Brennan in his first career game.
“I thought it was good,” Ruff said of Brennan’s overall performance. “Obviously scoring a goal, what a great thrill in your first game. I thought for the most part he kept his passing on the simple side, he made some nice plays.”
Brennan has now scored a goal in each of the last three games in which he has played. After recording a goal and an assist in Rochester’s win over Syracuse last Wednesday, he was recalled to Buffalo on Friday in case he would be needed in the Sabres game against Carolina. He did not dress, but returned to the Amerks lineup on Saturday and scored another goal in Toronto. Then, he scored his first career goal while making his NHL debut Wednesday night against Boston.
For the season, Brennan has recorded three goals and four assists in 17 games for the Amerks to rank second on the team in scoring among defensemen. He is also the second Amerk to be recalled by the Sabres and score his first NHL goal this season, joining Corey Tropp, who lit the lamp for the first time earlier this month.