As the Buffalo Sabres take the ice in Edmonton tonight, a two-hour time difference may be the first adjustment for the team. The next change involves adapting to some new pairings on the blueline.
The Sabres are without three of their top defensemen as they begin a four-game West Coast trip; Andrej Sekera
[ankle], Teppo Numminen [jaw] and Henrik Tallinder [shoulder].
With the rash of injuries, Head Coach Lindy Ruff was forced to make some changes including recalling 22 year old Marc-Andre Gragnani from the AHL Portland Pirates.
Gragnani will likely play with Nathan Paetsch, and is expected to garner around 14 minutes of ice time.
“If things are going good, they get more,” Ruff said. “If it looks like Marc, or the pairs, are having a tough time, you are going to have to back off.”
Chris Butler was paired with Sabres captain Craig Rivet and Toni Lydman played alongside Jaroslav Spacek.
Ruff said Sekera will likely be out one to two weeks after sustaining an ankle injury in Chicago. Sekera did not practice Monday afternoon in Edmonton, but participated in an off-ice workout.
Numminen did skate with the team, but with the protection of a visor after suffering a fractured jaw against the Hurricanes on Jan. 17. Numminen was hurt when a shot from the point clipped his left cheek.
“Teppo can skate, but can’t play for it looks like a week to two weeks, somewhere in that area,” Ruff said. “But it needs to heal a little before he can play.”
Tallinder is also expected to miss a couple weeks after hurting his shoulder last week in Tampa.
While Buffalo’s defense may be enduring setbacks, there was some good news up front as Patrick Kaleta
skated with the team for the first time in over a month.
Kaleta has missed the last 15 contests with a head/neck injury he sustained Dec. 19 against the Los Angeles Kings.
“We can ramp up [his practice] day-to-day, add a little bit more everyday,” Ruff said. “Today was more of getting him involved in drills. After that it’s going to be light contact and then we will get him into full contact.”
“I think I can go full-board,” Kaleta said. “It’s just a matter of getting my conditioning back and getting in game shape. I think that’s the main thing is getting back out there. I haven’t practiced with a puck or any equipment on for four weeks. It’s just a matter of getting back into the swing of things.”
Maxim Afinogenov was also absent from practice. The winger has missed the last eight games with a groin injury, but was skating with the team.
“I don’t know if you would call it a setback but we want to make sure before we put him back on,” Ruff said. “He felt it a little bit in the skate at Tampa so we put him through a pretty good workout today. Still not quite convinced he wants to get back out on the ice.”