John Gilmour has played four games this season. ©2019, Hickling Images

Sabres notes: John Gilmour moves up to forward as injury replacement

BUFFALO – In the end, instead of recalling a forward or trading for one, the Sabres simply utilized defenseman John Gilmour as a winger for Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger, who has five injured forwards, said Monday the Sabres could dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards.

The other option likely would’ve been recalling someone from the Rochester Americans. The AHL club, however, only has two healthy forwards on NHL contracts: Jean-Sebastien Dea and Andrew Oglevie.

It had been a long time since the Sabres dressed an extra defenseman and dropped to 11 forwards. About 10 years ago, former coach Lindy Ruff would occasionally move Steve Montador or Andrej Sekera up front.

Gilmour, 26, said he had played forward before, way back in midget hockey, when he spent a season up front.

At 15 or 16, Gilmour would skate at forward for that team and at defense for his high school squad in Montreal.

With centers Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson day-to-day with upper-body injuries, Gilmour’s run up front will likely last one game. The Sabres play the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

“We’re quite optimistic someone will be back Thursday,” Krueger said inside KeyBank Center.

In the meantime, Gilmour played only his fourth game this season. The Providence College product, who last dressed Nov. 1, has patiently waited for his opportunities.

“John’s been amazing in the way he’s dealt with being the extra defenseman,” Krueger said. “When he came in, he played really well. We’re pleased to find another opportunity for him in the lineup.

“He’s an energy player, he’s a good skater. We’re all so confident that he can help us out on the wing.”

Gilmour said: “I’m really excited. … With my skating I can get up ice and backcheck well.”

He said he had joked with some teammates he could play up front.

“You don’t want the injury bug to be a thing,” he said. “We’re definitely short on bodies.”

The Sabres are short on forward bodies. Their defense corps has stayed remarkably healthy through 21 games. Zach Bogosian’s return – he started practicing last week after undergoing hip surgery in April – would give them nine defensemen.

Gilmour, who scored 20 goals and 54 points in 70 AHL games with the Hartford Wolf Pack last season, is used to playing. Watching so many games has been a new experience.

Still, he has enjoyed the first seven weeks of the season.

“I love the day-to-day here, whether I’m practicing or doing the extra work on a game day when I’m not playing, I don’t mind that at all,” Gilmour said. “And watching the game from above, I’m learning things every day here, especially just being around this NHL club. It’s just a great experience.”

The Sabres made one other lineup change, inserting defenseman Colin Miller, a healthy scratch three straight games, for Marco Scandella, who struggled in Sunday’s 4-1 road loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Posting two shutouts in two games for the Cincinnati Cyclones helped Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen earn ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors, the league announced Tuesday.

Luukkonen made 22 saves in a 1-0 win over the Allen Americans on Thursday and stopped 23 shots in a 5-0 victory against the Fort Wayne Komets on Saturday.

Overall, the Finn, 20, has compiled a 3-2-0 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in five games with the Cyclones.

When could Luukkonen joined the Amerks?

“Seeing as he didn’t have a training camp, I think it’s important for us right now just for him to play,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said. “Obviously, he had an outstanding week.

“The biggest thing a young player who’s making an adjustment to pro is just giving him as many games as possible down there.”

In other prospect news, Erik Portillo has been named the junior United States Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Week.

Portillo, 19, recorded a 0.99 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in two wins for the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

Overall, Portillo has compiled an 8-1-1 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 10 games.

Portillo, a Swede the Sabres drafted in the third round in June, 67th overall, has committed to play college hockey at Michigan.

Botterill said center prospect Dylan Cozens, a junior star the Sabres drafted eighth overall in June, won’t be recalled from the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes.

“We’re ecstatic about him as a player in his development but he’s not on our radar,” he said.

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