|Paul Gaustad (Getty Images) |
While the status of Pat Kaleta
is still unclear, the Buffalo Sabres should be getting another forward back in the lineup with centerman Paul Gaustad.
After missing the last 10 games with a leg injury, the forward is set to return in time for Friday’s match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I feel ready to play and contribute to the team,” Gaustad said. “I’m going to play my role and play my game.”
The centerman was hurt Nov. 27 in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers after attempting to check along the boards.
With a slue of games in December, including the team’s current stretch of six games in nine nights, Head Coach Lindy Ruff hopes that Gaustad will provide a much needed reprieve – especially in the faceoff circle.
“We’ve struggled in the faceoff department,” Ruff said. “We’ve gone from third in the League to somewhere in the middle of the pack. We’re a better team when we start with the puck. The games where we were 65 percent on draws, we had a lot more puck possession. We spent a lot more time chasing [with Gaustad out of the lineup], we’ve tried a lot of different personnel in there to try to win faceoffs. Getting him back will give us a guy that we can use in key situations.”
Prior to suffering the injury, Gaustad was leading the NHL with a 63.6 percent success rate when taking the draw.
Having him back may also take some pressure off of those players suffering from food poisoning. Ruff reported after Wednesday’s loss in Ottawa that several players on the team had gotten sick.
“There was a couple reported [cases] earlier in the evening around 8:30-9 p.m. Then at midnight I got another call where four or five players were sick and throwing up,” Ruff said. “They didn’t come to the meeting in the morning. Some guys we really had in the doubtful category. We tried to just lighten up on their shifts.”
Facing back-to-back games, Ruff opted to give the team some rest Thursday at HSBC Arena with a 30-minute practice, where only 17 players took to the ice.