BUFFALO – Naturally, starting Matt Hackett, a goalie with a weak .893 save percentage, over Anders Lindback, who has a gaudy .926 save percentage, for tonight’s McEichel showdown against the Arizona Coyotes might raise a few eyebrows.
But Sabres coach Ted Nolan has plenty of reasons to start Hackett, who made 40 saves in Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Nashville. The 25-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t play five more games.
“Hackett’s in a contract situation, so we have to take that into consideration,” Nolan said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “There’s a where we’re going with the organization as far as going forward with it? Do we scratch an older guy versus a young guy?”
Hackett tore up his right knee late last season and has been experiencing soreness, so Nolan sat him Monday.
“We wanted to know if he was feeling really good,” Nolan said. “Today he confirmed it.”
As expected, Nolan faced more tanking questions this morning. As expected, he responded with the same answers he’s been giving for weeks or even months.
“You just go about games as you normally would,” Nolan said. “If you’re not good enough to win, you’re not good enough to win. But not giving your effort to win is a different thing. These guys have never done otherwise since I’ve been here.”
In other lineup news, defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower body, six games) and winger Patrick Kaleta (bone chip, 18 games) will return for the 30th-place Sabres tonight. Defenseman Tyson Strachan will sit.
“They bring excitement, they bring passion and aggressiveness,” Nolan said.
Meanwhile, Nolan said winger Jerry D’Amigo, who was high-sticked by Craig Smith in the face Saturday, underwent season-ending surgery Wednesday.
Nolan said D’Amigo’s injury is similar to the broken face Kaleta suffered earlier this season.