Zemgus Girgensons and Mike Weber each took a step forward in their recoveries when they returned to practice for the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday at First Niagara Center.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that Girgensons, who’s missed the past four games with an upper-body injury that he sustained on a hit against San Jose on Oct. 14, is a possibility to play when Buffalo hosts Nashville on Wednesday night.
“It’s a good sign for where he’s at,” the coach said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
Weber, Bylsma said, is further from game action. The defenseman has missed six games with a knee injury that required surgery and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 17.
With the additions of Girgensons and Weber came two subtractions from the Sabres’ practice. Defenseman Zach Bogosian sat out for a maintenance day while forward Evander Kane was absent with a lower-body injury.
Bylsma said that Kane’s current injury is completely unrelated to the injury to his MCL that forced him to miss 10 games from Oct. 24 to Nov. 19. The forward has played in three games since returning from the injury.
“He is day-to-day,” Bylsma said. “If we were in football, I’d say ‘probable.’”
Coverage of the Sabres’ contest Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.
Josh Gorges gave his reaction to St. Louis' game-winning goal after the game last night, which was scored when the puck bounced back and forth between him and the body of Blues’ forward Robby Fabbri prior to eventually falling to the ice and gliding past the goal line.
But what did Linus Ullmark, the goaltender who dived in a desperate attempt to save the puck, see on the deciding play?
“Nothing,” he said. “Actually, I didn’t see [anything]. I saw they shot it to the net, it didn’t get through and then the puck is just bouncing around. Someone whacks it, the puck just disappears and I see it in my peripheral vision that the puck is on my left side and it’s about to go in.
“I turn around and try to whack it out there, but I’m too late.”
The goal especially hurt considering just how good Ullmark had been up to that point in a 1-1 tie. His glove was quick and he limited second chances while keeping St. Louis off the board until five minutes into the third period.
The first Blues goal was nearly as much a matter of circumstance as the second. A shot from the point hit off Bogosian’s leg and fell to his feet in front of the net, where the Blues’ Troy Brouwer was able to swat a backhand past the unsuspecting goaltender.
Up until that point, Bylsma thought his team’s 1-0 lead might hold – in large part because of Ullmark’s play.
“With the way he was playing one was going to be enough to win,” the coach said. “He had the breakaway shot in the first that was a grade-A opportunity; there were two other grade-As that he stopped.
“The other ones he was solid on and looked good on. He swallowed a lot of pucks. I thought he was on his way to pitching a zero.”
The “grade-As” for Ullmark were can’t-miss moments in the game. He stayed with former Sabres captain Steve Ott on a breakaway attempt and robbed him down low with his glove in the first and, later in the period, flashed the glove again to stifle Fabbri after a turnover at the blue line.
After being unhappy with the amount of rebounds he allowed in a 27-save effort in St. Louis on Thursday, Ullmark said he felt sharper Monday at home.
“I had clearer vision of the puck all day,” he said. “I had better focus, felt like my hand-eye coordination was a lot better. It’s something day-to-day, sometimes you’re a little bit off and that creates rebounds that you usually don’t create.
“I don’t know if it was something with the trip or something like that. I don’t know. It can happen to anyone, but it’s something that I need to keep in mind next time on the road to be prepared when something happens like that so I know how to handle it.”
In that case, Tuesday appeared to be another one of the good days. Ullmark stopped a few more great scoring chances during Sabres shooting drills at practice, first diving to stop David Legwand on a 2-on-1 rush and later swiping a puck from mid-air behind his back.
He tossed the puck to the ice, fully aware of the quality of save he had just made.
“We had a good practice today,” he said, laughing. “We had a lot of shots, a lot of high scoring chances – 2-on-1s, all of that. It gets you into the zone a lot more because you’re battling against players so hard in comparison to when you’re having a regular practice with just 1-on-1s.
“I think it’s really fun to have these kinds of practices because it makes you compete a lot more and then it creates those kinds of saves.”
26 Matt Moulson – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 12 Brian Gionta
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 63 Tyler Ennis
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand / 59 Tim Schaller – 88 Jamie McGinn
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe/25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 46 Cody Franson
6 Mike Weber – 3 Mark Pysyk
35 Linus Ullmark
31 Chad Johnson