The Buffalo Sabres have found success on the ice while dealing with some key injuries. When they go for their sixth win in seven games Tuesday night, it looks like they’ll have some healthy bodies back in the lineup.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after Monday’s practice at First Niagara Center that alternate captain Josh Gorges, who has been on injured reserve since sustaining a knee injury on Nov. 11, will return to the ice for Buffalo’s home game on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Injured forwards Cody McCormick, a key penalty killer, and Drew Stafford, who is third on the team in scoring, may also be available.
In Gorges’ absence, Tyson Strachan has been given more responsibility. He’s been paired with Tyler Myers and played a career-high 30:39 on Saturday in Montreal.
“Any time you get to play big minutes and get counted on in those situations, it always feels great,” Stachan said. “It’s a vote of confidence out of the coaches. Especially in a big win like that and the big weekend we had, it’s not like we lost two games. We played the minutes and got two big wins.”
Nolan has obviously liked what he’s seen from Strachan and noted that he hasn’t changed his style just because he’s playing more. He’s remained consistent and is playing within himself.
“He’s just doing the basic things and when you do basic things – simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, I believe,” Nolan said. “The simpler you do things, the more efficient you are.”
After missing one game due to a lower-body injury, Myers has logged a ton of ice time in the past two contests as well. He played a team-high 27:28 on Friday and recorded a regular-season career-high of 31:34 on Saturday to lead all skaters.
Myers was given a maintenance day on Monday and Nolan said he should be ready to go on Tuesday.
McCormick continues to go through concussion protocol and Nolan said that if his evaluation with team doctors goes well on Monday, he should be available for Tuesday as well. He’s been out since Nov. 29.
Stafford practiced with the fourth line for a few minutes before leaving practice early. Nolan is hopeful he’ll return to the lineup on Tuesday after missing Saturday night’s game with a lower-body injury.
“He tried to skate today on his own and did OK so we pulled him off,” Nolan said. “He’ll try again tomorrow morning and if he’s good then he’ll be back in.”
However, defenseman Andrej Meszaros is going through concussion protocol procedures after he sustained a head injury Friday night. He’ll miss Tuesday night’s game.
The team has won five of its past six games and is coming off back-to-back wins against the first-place Montreal Canadiens.
“If you have the right belief factor combined with the right preparation and the right work and determination – all those types of things – good things usually happen,” Nolan said. “Right now, the guys are feeling good about themselves. They’re putting in time. They’re putting in the effort. We’ve had some breaks and we’re getting some wins.”
Strachan said that the team has shown more consistency lately. Buffalo was 2-8-1 in the month of October, but was 6-6-1 in November thanks in large part to their current run.
“You win one, you might be happy and say, ‘Hey, maybe we’re good.’ But you start putting a couple together, all of a sudden, you’re saying, ‘OK. We can do this on a consistent basis,’” Strachan said. “That’s what we weren’t doing at the beginning of the year. We weren’t playing 60-minute games.
“We were seeing spots of how well we could play. The last little bit, it’s been a lot of games in a row where we’ve been in games and finding ways to win games.”
Hockey Canada on Monday unveiled its 29-man selection camp roster for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on Monday and two Sabres prospects have made the cut.
Center Sam Reinhart, Buffalo’s top pick in 2014 (second overall) and right wing Nick Baptiste a third-round pick (69th overall) in 2013, have been invited to Canada’s final camp before the tournament. Canada's camp opens on Dec. 11 in Toronto and the tournament will begin on Dec. 26.
The only 2015 draft-eligible prospects in Canada's camp are center Connor McDavid of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters and Kingston Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse.
USA Hockey is expected to release its prelininary roster on Tuesday at 11 a.m. J.T. Compher, Hudson Fasching, Justin Bailey and Anthony Florentino are among Sabres prospects that could be named to the final camp roster.
FROM LATVIA WITH LOVE
Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons leapt to the top of the leaderboard for All-Star fan voting over the weekend. As the only Latvian player currently in the NHL, he thinks he’s been getting a lot of support from his home country.
Latvia is seven hours ahead of Buffalo so that means fans watching Sabres games live in Latvia could be up until 4:30 a.m. local time.
“The fans back home have always been all about hockey. They’re just kind of crazy,” Girgensons said. “They stay up late to watch my games, even early morning you could call it. We just have big hockey fans back home.”
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 82 Marcus Foligno – 80 Chris Stewart
8 Cody McCormick – 19 Cody Hodgson – 36 Patrick Kaleta – 21 Drew Stafford
4 Josh Gorges – 24 Tyson Strachan
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 61 Andre Benoit
1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth
Did Not Skate: 31 Matt Hackett (injured reserve, knee), 41 Andrej Meszaros (concussion protocol), 57 Tyler Myers (maintenance day)