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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres
For the third game in a row, a rookie will make his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres.

Brayden McNabb
Following defenseman T.J. Brennan and forward Zack Kassian, defenseman Brayden McNabb will play in his first NHL game tonight against the Washington Capitals at the First Niagara Center.

McNabb, with only 19 professional games under his belt with the Rochester Americans, steps in for defenseman Robyn Regehr, who suffered an upper body injury during last night’s game in Columbus.

Head coach Lindy Ruff said after this morning’s team meeting that there is no timetable for Regehr’s return and that it could potentially be a long-term injury.

“He’s out. Upper body right now. We have no timetable for it,” Ruff said. “…We’re dealing with a bunch of injuries. We’ve got one other one we’ve gotta deal with so it’s more than just Robyn,”

Ruff said that a forward was also injured last night but he would not disclose who that player was or what the injury might be. He did say that another call-up from Rochester would be necessary for tonight’s game.

When asked if he had made a decision on which player would be called up, Ruff responded vaguely.

“I might’ve, but I’m not telling you,” Ruff said. “Or we might have.”

Regehr and that unnamed forward join goaltender Ryan Miller, defensemen Tyler Myers and Mike Weber and forwards Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis, Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta on the injured list.

“We’ve never had it this bad. Going into the game tonight, nine of our regulars will be out,” Ruff said.

With so many players out of the lineup, it seems as if the Sabres dressing room has been taken over by the Rochester Americans. Brennan, Kassian, McNabb, Luke Adam, Matt Ellis, Corey Tropp, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jhonas Enroth have all played significant time in the American Hockey League within the last two seasons and are now all up with the Sabres.

“It’s definitely nice to be comfortable in the room and whatnot with knowing a lot of guys,” McNabb said. “It’s unfortunate for all the injuries but it gives guys like us a chance.”

Even with so many regular players injured, however, Ruff explained that no one is going to take it easy on his team and that the injuries can’t be an excuse for poor play.

“It’s a hell of an opportunity for some of our young guys,” Ruff said. “I know it’s tough. Nobody’s feeling sorry. Nobody in the league’s going to feeling sorry for us so you know we’re in a tough stretch. We gotta try to win games and I think that young players playing well can help you win games.”

Another injury to the defense means that a larger burden will be put on veterans Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera. Ehrhoff logs the most ice time with an average of 23:30 ice time per game and leads the defense in points with 11. Ehrhoff has played with both Leopold and Sekera this season and it’s likely that he’ll be skating with one of them for much of tonight’s game.

“The last few years I’ve played with a bunch of different partners. It’s never been just one guy so I’m kind of used to it,” Ehrhoff said. “It’s just the way it is, you know? We’ve got to go through that stretch now and the important thing is we keep winning games.”

Three defenseman in the line-up (Gragnani, Brennan and McNabb) have only 22 NHL games between them coming into tonight’s game. That inexperience will also factor into how many minutes the more veteran defenders will play.

“I think that really will go with how the game goes. You would like to put the bulk of the minutes on our veteran players,” Ruff said. “There’s no reason why one pair of veterans couldn’t play your 23, 24 minutes and that would allow us to spread the rest of the time out amongst those other four.”

McCormick, Ennis, Kaleta and Weber all participated in an optional skate this morning.

For Kaleta, Ruff said that it was his first day on the ice since Monday and that he is progressing. McCormick took the ice for the first time as well and Ruff said that he “rode the bike [and has] got himself to a point now where he can exercise again.”

While Mike Weber is able to just skate, Ruff said that Ennis was able to get through a practice and is the “furthest ahead of anybody.”

Ruff also said that Boyes will miss a “good period of time” but no surgery was necessary for his lower body injury.
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