By Bill Hoppe
When the rest of his Rochester Americans teammates hopped on a Binghamton-bound bus Thursday afternoon, Corey Tropp stayed back in the Flower City, his cell phone close by his side.
Earlier in the day, the 22-year-old winger had been informed the Sabres would recall him if the NHL suspended agitator Patrick Kaleta for a head-butting incident.
“If he wasn’t suspended, I’d be driving myself to Binghamton, or if he was, I was coming to Buffalo,” Tropp said Friday prior to making his NHL debut in the Sabres’ x-x win over the Calgary Flames inside the First Niagara Center. “Obviously, when I got the call it was really exciting.”
Yeah, playing in the big leagues probably beats driving down Route 81 alone.
With Kaleta banned four games for hitting Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek illegally Wednesday – the winger can come back a week from tonight in Boston – Tropp, the 89th pick in 2007, has an opportunity to impress.
Wearing No. 78, he skated 6:19 on Friday, mostly on the right wing beside Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
“I think I bring a lot of energy,” said Tropp, who’s 6-feet and 183 pounds. “I look at myself as a guy that finishes my checks, competes real hard. I think on top of that I can bring some offense, too, and chip in playing an aggressive style.”
The Michigan native certainly possesses an edge. A wicked slash earned him a season suspension as sophomore at Michigan State University three years ago. He rebounded, though, becoming an assistant captain before a 20-goal, 42-point junior campaign.
Tropp, who compiled 10 goals, 40 points and 113 penalties minutes in Portland as a rookie, had a team-best four goals and seven points with the Amerks, who’ve started just 4-4-2.
Some expected the Sabres would summon Marcus Foligno or Zack Kassian, two higher-profile prospects. But Tropp has quietly played well during his two AHL seasons.
“We’re looking for their best right winger,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
In September, Tropp impressed in the Traverse City prospects tournament, and then enjoyed a strong preseason, scoring a goal in three appearances.
“Competing there and getting into those games, seeing what the pace is like, definitely makes you feel a little bit better,” Tropp said. “I played pretty well in those.”
What did Ruff expect in Tropp’s first real game?
“I told him I want him to score,” Ruff joked. “I told him I want him to defend really well. I told him if he got in a fight to throw them with both hands.”
Kaleta’s suspension, meanwhile, disappointed Ruff.
New NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, who’s come down hard on questionable hits, cited two previous Kaleta head-butts when he explained the suspension.
“I know there’s a new standard,” Ruff said. “Pat’s been playing hard. He’s been an important part of key areas of our game. He’s really worked hard at trying to tone down aspects of his game. I’ve got some disappointment.
“He’s a big part of our PK, we’re going to miss him. At the same point, I understand that, and if you go above that and you have a reputation and previous incidents, the punishment could be stiffer.
Kaleta said he “was going for the puck” when he rammed into Voracek along the boards.
“I was just trying to push the guy off the puck,” Kaleta said. “I don’t really make the decisions on that stuff. I’m going to take the positives out of it and not let it slow me down. As they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in one day.’ I’m trying to become a different hockey player, a (bigger) threat to the positive side to our team, whether it’s penalty killing and just working with the puck.
“It takes time. Sometimes you have setbacks.”
Defenseman Chris Butler, dished to the Flames as their key piece in June’s Robyn Regehr trade, made his return to Buffalo on Friday.
The deal caught the 25-year-old, who played 155 games over three seasons, a bit off guard.
“You never sit around thinking you’re going to get traded,” Butler said. “So I think from that standpoint there is definitely some shock initially. Once you kind of sat down and looked at it they had a lot of young defensemen in Buffalo, I wasn’t surprised that they moved someone.”
The Sabres made one lineup move, reinserting defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani for Mike Weber, who made his season debut Wednesday. Gragnani skated with Christian Ehrhoff. Regehr moved beside Jordan Leopold.
Former Sabres netminder Clint Malarchuk is Calgary’s new goalie coach.