While two players closer to returning from injuries, the Buffalo Sabres will have to put another on the shelf.
Center Cody Hodgson was back at practice at First Niagara Center on Monday after missing the past two games with an injury and defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who has missed five games with an upper-body injury, is ready to come off injured reserve, according to interim coach Ted Nolan.
Hodgson took the pregame warmup Saturday afternoon against the Calgary Flames, but he ended up being a scratch.
“I obviously want to play and I want to contribute,” Hodgson said. “I think I can help the team, so I just have to make sure everything’s good. But obviously I want to play.”
Nolan put Hodgson at about 80 percent healthy on Saturday and has said he wants the 23-year-old center as close to 100 percent as possible before putting him back in the lineup. His status for Buffalo’s home game on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets will depend on how he feels in the morning.
“He looks very good today. Today’s a new day and he looks good,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he feels the same way tomorrow and be in the lineup.”
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On the flip side, Nolan announced after practice that Cody McCormick will be out approximately four to six weeks with an upper-body injury. McCormick left the game on Saturday against Calgary 7:26 into the second period after blocking a Mark Giordano slap shot and did not return.
McCormick missed four games earlier this month with a different upper-body injury. In 25 games this season, he has one goal and four assists.
“He’s fearless,” Nolan said. “He puts himself in front of shots that are coming in 90 miles an hour and sometimes they hit you in the wrong spot. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Cody last game. But he’s a tough guy. He’ll bounce back and be ready to go in time when he’s healed.”
Pending any roster moves, the Sabres will have eight healthy defensemen on the roster when Sulzer is activated from injured reserve. Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Mike Weber have found themselves in and out of the lineup over the past few games. Nolan wants to see players working hard in both practice and games for the opportunity to see game action.
“We want to make sure it’s a competitive lineup. We want to make that guys who are in it want to stay in it and guys who are out of it want to fight to get in it,” Nolan said. “It’s not really a rotation, just some guys continue to have little rough ones and we have to replace them. Until we find that consistent effort, it’ll stay the same.”
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Pysyk was the Sabres’ scratch on Saturday, but Nolan said it wasn’t necessarily the rookie defenseman’s play on Thursday in Ottawa that kept him out of the lineup against the Flames. Pysyk played 16:41 with two shots on net in that game.
“He’s a younger player. Sometimes you like to take him out when he played a great game versus a so-so game,” Nolan said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s just numbers. Mark’s a younger player. We had to get Brayden in at some point instead of just sitting here so it was a numbers game more so than what his play was.”
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
32 John Scott – 72 Luke Adam – 37 Matt Ellis – 65 Brian Flynn
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 4 Jamie McBain
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 3 Mark Pysyk
52 Alexander Sulzer – 6 Mike Weber
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Moulson – Hodgson – Ennis
Stafford – Ehrhoff
Foligno – Ott – Leino
McBain – Myers