Healthy bodies mean Sabres can send youngsters back to Amerks for playoff race
BUFFALO – Slowly, the injury-plagued Sabres are starting to get some healthy bodies back.
Three injured players returned in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Detroit. Now, they might have two more back for tonight’s road tilt against the New York Rangers.
Winger Drew Stafford (undisclosed) pronounced himself ready during Wednesday’s practice, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. Meanwhile, defenseman Henrik Tallinder (undisclosed) said he’s a game-time decision tonight.
“Hank, he gave me the old 95-percent sure look,” Nolan said inside the First Niagara Center.
Center Zenon Konopka, a healthy scratch Tuesday after recovering from a lower-body injury, practiced on the fourth line Wednesday. Winger Cory Conacher appeared to be a spare.
With injured players back, the Sabres sent rookie forwards Nick Deslauriers and Johan Larsson back to Rochester on Wednesday.
Deslauriers, acquired from Los Angeles on March 5, scored one goal and was a minus-9 in his first 16 NHL games. The 23-year-old moved to the wing earlier this season.
“I thought Nick handled himself very well for a young kid,” Nolan said. “We put him right into the fire. We give him 12, 15, 14 minutes a game coming right from the American League. Coming from a defensive player to a forward in this season, he’s going to be proud of himself.”
Nolan said the Sabres will likely assign rookie defensemen Mark Pysyk and Rasmus Ristolainen to the Americans soon.
“One will go back probably quicker,” he said.
In other lineup news, Nolan said goalie Matt Hackett will start the final three games. Backup Andrey Makarov will return to the Amerks, who are battling for a playoff spot, Friday. Nolan isn’t sure where the Sabres will find a new goalie.
Hackett struggled in Rochester, posting some poor numbers – 13-17-2, 3.07 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage – in 33 games. The 24-year-old has played much better during his six NHL appearances.
“Sometimes a different set of eyes, a different environment, different people get different results,” Nolan said. “Everybody says the definition of insanity is keep doing the same thing and expect different results. So by him coming here he had a different coaching staff to look at him, a different environment and some guys play better at certain levels better.”
In other news, Nolan said defenseman Tyler Myers, who crashed into the net March 25, won’t play again this season.
“If I’m a betting man, he’s not going to see any more game action until next season,” he said.