TORONTO - With injuries ravaging the Buffalo Sabres' top two lines, Tyler Ennis is hoping to make the most of his chance.
The Edmonton native has two goals and three assists in five games with the Sabres this season - including a helper in Buffalo's 4-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night.
Ennis was a Western Hockey League scoring sensation for the Medicine Hat Tigers, totalling 112 goals and 228 points in 202 games his final three junior seasons. This year with the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates, Ennis has 23 goals and 65 points in 69 games.
Buffalo is missing top scoring forwards in Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek through injury at the moment and the diminutive left-winger wants to stick with the Sabres.
"I just have to take it day-by-day, game-by-game," Ennis said. "I've only played five games in the league and there's a lot of stuff I still have to learn."
He clearly has a nose for the net and scored in his first NHL game in November versus Philadelphia.
"It was awesome," Ennis said of his debut. "It was a dream come true to play, and to actually get a goal was really exciting for me and my family watching back home."
If Ennis sounds a little awestruck, it's because he is.
"Sometimes I'll catch myself on the bench, pinching myself," Ennis said. "Sitting here ... in a building like (Air Canada Centre), playing with guys you grew up watching."
Buffalo doesn't shy away from smallish players. At five-foot-nine, Ennis isn't even the shortest player on the Sabres roster at the moment. That title goes to five-foot-six second-year pro Nathan Gerbe, another offensively-minded AHL call-up. Buffalo's second-leading scorer, Derek Roy, is also generously listed at five-foot-nine.
Ennis knows the kind of opportunity he's getting right now, and is encouraged by the fact Buffalo isn't afraid to give players of his stature a legitimate shot to play.
"It's definitely an exciting time for me," he said, "and I'm just trying to do what I can with it."