The numbers -- 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds -- already tell you Joe Finley is huge. But the Sabres' newest defenseman stood up on skates while meeting with the media Thursday afternoon and I was right next to him. And let me tell you, he is H.U.G.E.
Finley is up from Rochester and will likely pair with Brayden McNabb Friday night while making his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings. Not an easy spot. But the 24-year-old, a former No. 1 pick of the Washington Capitals, has overcome serious injuries the last two years and is grateful for the chance.
"I really just took it upon myself to focus on things I can control and that's trying to play a real simple, solid brand of hockey," Finley said. "I've been fortunate to do that so far. Things are moving in the right direction but there's a long way to go to being here fulltime, that's for sure."
Finley leads the Amerks with a plus-10 rating and 57 penalty minutes this year. He's been on the No. 1 pair with former Sabre Shaone Morrisonn in a meteoric rise from training camp tryout when coach Lindy Ruff said the Sabres were "test-driving a used car."
"I'm not really thinking about it too much, that's the good thing," Finley said of his debut. "You just have to worry about waking up tomorrow, having a pregame skate and worrying about the things you have control. That physical play comes. It's about playing good positional hhockey. All the guys up here are in fantastic position and they're on you that much quicker."
Ruff acknowledged that Finley got the call because T.J. Brennan is out in Rochester with an upper-body injury but the coach was intrigued by Finley in training camp, especially with his skating ability, and remains intrigued now.
"We've got another man 6-foot-8 who can skate almost as well as Tyler Myers can," Ruff said. " He's defended really well down there. You look at that and if he can continue to progress and stay hungry, you don't find those type of players. You don't find them in the draft anymore and it takes a long time to develop them."
In other news, Tyler Ennis is a go for Friday night after missing all of November with a high ankle sprain while Patrick Kaleta (groin) remains up in the air. Ryan Miller still has some concussion testing to take later Thursday and is on target to play either Friday or Saturday. Drew MacIntyre has been sent back to the Amerks.
Hear Finley's meeting with reporters below.
taggedRochester Amerks | Sabres