BUFFALO – Early in goalie Adam Wilcox’s childhood, the NHL hadn’t returned to Minnesota yet. So the South St. Paul resident began cheering for legendary goalie Dominik Hasek and, ironically, his newest team.
“Minnesota didn’t have a team, so I always rooted for Hasek and the Sabres,” the loquacious Wilcox said today after the Sabres recalled him from the AHL.
Wilcox, 25, spent time in the NHL last season, dressing as a backup five times with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, according to NHLbackups.com.
“This is my third time and it still feels like the first time,” said Wilcox, who couldn’t stop smiling.
But Wilcox, Linus Ullmark’s understudy most of this season with the Rochester Americans, has never appeared in an NHL game.
Ullmark and goalie Robin Lehner both missed today’s practice and are day-to-day, Sabres coach Phil Housley said.
The Sabres summoned Wilcox because Lehner tweaked a lower-body injury Thursday and took himself out of the 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Housley said. Ullmark suffered a concussion Monday, hours before his scheduled start against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sabres have five games left. Housley said goalie Chad Johnson will start Saturday’s tilt against the Predators. But perhaps Wilcox could receive his first NHL action next week.
Housley wouldn’t say if he would play.
“I’ve always got the butterflies in my stomach either way,” Wilcox said of possibly playing.
The 6-foot, 189-pound Wilcox signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Sabres on July 1.
“It was pretty cool to sign with the team that I always dreamed of playing on,” he said. “But I thought it would be a good fit for me. I’m really glad I signed here.”
The University of Minnesota product is 11-7-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage in 28 games with the Amerks this season. Since turning pro late in 2014-15, he has compiled OK numbers – 45-34-22, 2.87 and .901 – in 104 AHL appearances.
“I’m honored to be up with the Sabres here, even if it is the final week, it’s just really cool,” Wilcox said. “I’ve had a smile on my face the whole time.”
Check back later for more on Wilcox, who had to lead his new teammates in a stretch on the KeyBank Center ice and say a few words today.
In other news, based on today’s lines, winger Jordan Nolan will be scratched Saturday. Winger Benoit Pouliot, the odd man out Thursday, skated with center Johan Larsson and Nick Baptiste.
Newcomer Casey Mittelstadt, meanwhile, centered Evan Rodrigues and Kyle Okposo. Sam Reinhart, Mittelstadt’s right winger Thursday, went beside center Ryan O’Reilly and Scott Wilson.
Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges appeared to be the fourth pair today.