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Alex Tuch will make his dream come true by playing for Sabers: “Excited like everyone I’ve seen”

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BUFFALO – What makes winger Alex Tuch’s passion for the Sabers so unique is that he had it long before the team acquired it on November 4.

Tuch, 25, grew up in Baldwinsville, about 150 miles from KeyBank Center, rooted for his beloved Sabers. He attended games, owned shirts and reveled in their success.

So right off the bat, Tuch, who is due to make his Sabers debut on Monday, fits in perfectly. He feels the same excitement as defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, centers Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson, and other members of the young core of the Sabers.

“They want to be a Buffalo Saber,” Sabers coach Don Granato said after Sunday practice. “They want to make this community proud to be fans of the Sabers. Tuch jumped on it. I mean, he’s that. He was the fan, he was the kid in the stands watching Saber hockey, aspiring to play for the Sabers. “

Monday’s game, assuming it can be played – the Columbus Blue Jackets have three players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol – will be very special for Tuch. Not only will he fulfill a lifelong dream playing for the Sabers, but it will also be his first game since undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason.

“He’s as excited as anyone else that I’ve seen play a game, because it’s here, because he’s wearing this shirt,” said Granato. “Anyone who grew up in hockey likes it like all of us, because we’re in the business, when you see you feel that and it’s a pretty awesome feeling. “

The date Tuch had surgery, July 21, is etched in his mind.

“Two days less than five months since the surgery,” Tuch said on Sunday. “It has been a long road. “

Tuch, one of three assets the Sabers received from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Jack Eichel, said the adaptation to his new team has been “pretty crazy.”

The Boston College product admitted that it has been difficult trying to adjust to his new teammates while recovering from an injury. Still, he said everyone was welcoming.

He started training on November 29 and also attended meetings and traveled with the team. He started full contact training last week.

“It’s kind of weird that I couldn’t play,” said Tuch, who hasn’t played a game since June 24, the end of the Vegas playoffs. “That’s probably the biggest difference from a new team. Usually you take care of a little bit of media and a lot of the game; at the moment i’m busy not playing and a bit of media still.

“My teammates made it really easy for me. The coaching staff and everyone were supportive and really excited to have me, and I really felt that from the start.

Granato said Tuch, who has been traded twice since 2017, understands the business side of hockey and the demand and responsibility that comes with it.

“But there’s a big kid in him because he’s here in Buffalo,” Granato said. “For me as a coach you feel it and feel it and that’s what I want from our players. We have talked a lot about passion and energy and you have to be able to identify with the child in yourself, with the dreams that you have had. You are living the dream, all of these guys are, and that’s okay. We want it to be part of their game and never forget it.

“So we have this passion that they play with and obviously we can then identify the business side of it. It’s a company. It’s at an important point in his career for us as a team and as a coach to have that combination. And we’re not even talking about his talent, which is obviously extremely high.

The 6-4, 217-pound Tuch trained on the right wing on Sunday alongside center Dylan Cozens and Brett Murray on what could be considered the Sabers’ top line. Tuch gives the rebuilding squad an established goalscorer who has compiled 61 goals in 255 career games, including 18 in 55 appearances last season.

“He’s got a lot of tools,” said Sabers goaltender Malcolm Subban, who played with Tuch in Vegas. “He’s scored big goals in the past and I’m sure he’s going to score a lot more. I think overall as a player and as a person he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Just genuine, outgoing. He’s a great guy and they’ll love him here.

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