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OVERCOMING ADVERSITY PAYING OFF FOR LEIER

By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on February 19, 2020

Earlier this week,  the Buffalo Sabres announced that the team signed forward Taylor Leier to a one-year, two-way contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

“I knew I had to put the work in and that it just wasn’t going to be given to me. I’m just really excited and happy that Buffalo has the belief in me, and I hope to prove them right,” commented Leier after clearing waivers Tuesday afternoon, keeping him in Rochester.

Well, for now at least. The new two-way deal for Leier, who began the season on American Hockey League contract, now means the Sabres can bring him up whenever they need. He becomes the second Amerks forward this season to be elevated to an NHL contract, joining Dalton Smith.

Leier has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Rochester Americans after being acquired by the Buffalo Sabres in a midseason trade from the Philadelphia Flyers just last year. The Amerks forward has recorded 31 points (19+12) in 52 games with the Amerks, including eight points (7+1) in just 17 appearances due to an injury-filled season.

WATCH: TAYLOR LEIER AFTER TUESDAY'S PRACTICE

His last stint in the NHL came in 2017-18 when he spent the duration of the campaign with the Flyers, who drafted him in the fourth round (117th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, recording five points (1+4) in a career-high 39 games. In all, he’s appeared in 55 NHL games, all with Philadelphia, totaling seven points (2+5).

Despite only being with the Buffalo organization for a little over a year now, Leier has taken the time to attribute much of his relaxed mindset on seeing time in different organizations and how no matter what he needs to just go and play his game.

“I try to just take it day-by-day and game-by-game. I try not to really think about the things that I can’t control and the outside noise, like what management thinks of me or other teams think of me. I think those are things that players can’t really think of. You just have to play your game”

Diving deeper into Leier’s play this season with the Amerks, he started out watching 23 games from the stands before getting the go-ahead to join his teammates back out on the ice. After missing the first part of the season due to an upper-body injury that occurred over the offseason, Leier came out on fire. Through his first 10 games of the season, the versatile forward collected six points on four goals and two assists, including two multi-goal efforts.

He was starting to find a rhythm while rediscovering his scoring touch.

WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR AFTER TUESDAY'S PRACTICE

Then, adversity struck again.

Unfortunately, after that 10-game span, Leier found himself sidelined once more. During the first game of the new year against the Belleville Senators on Jan. 3, the Amerks forward would leave the game with an upper-body injury and no timeframe of when he could return to the ice.

“It was just a freak accident that I don’t even think a lot of the guys on the team or coaching staff have really ever seen before. It was unfortunate but there’s nothing much you can do with a situation like that. In the end, I think all these things can only make a guy stronger,” recalled Leier.

Since then, Leier has made it back in the lineup for the second time after missing 12 more games Making his comeback earlier this month against the Cleveland Monsters, Leier has appeared in seven games, notching two goals, including the game winner this past Sunday against the Utica Comets.

Even with his second return from injury, he still wasn’t sure if the path he was on would lead him back to the NHL. That all changed on Monday.

“I’m super excited,” said Leier. “It’s been a long eight or nine months for me. I kind of took it step by step and tried to really work my way back after a significant injury.”

There’s no doubt that when the Amerks forward is in the game, he’s giving his all in order to be a key factor behind his team’s success – no matter who he’s playing for. For now, Leier is just excited to be healthy, again, and focused on staying that way so he can make his return to the NHL.

“Just feeling like you’re a piece of the puzzle and a part of the solution is a great feeling for a player, and that’s what I strive to be for any organization and any team I play for. That’s my goal. I want to be on a winning team, and I want to be a key factor on that winning team wherever I am.”