BUFFALO – Sabres coach Don Granato acknowledged that, yes, he was nervous about Casey Mittelstadt’s health. After undergoing surgery to repair an upper-body injury, the center left the lineup shortly into his second game back.
But when Mittelstadt, 23, recently visited his surgeon, he received good news. Granato said Mittelstadt, who had issues in the area of his surgery, will rejoin the Sabres for today’s practice in a non-contact role. The American has been skating on his own.
“It had nothing to do with directly related to the surgery,” Granato said following Tuesday afternoon’s practice, the Sabres’ first following the NHL All-Star break. “The surgery was fine, but it was muscles around it. It was some fluid because of the intensity we ratcheted up to him a higher tempo, the body responded different, which was natural, according to the doctors.”
Granato said the Sabres will see how Mittelstadt responds to practicing and take it day by day.
Two upper-body injuries have limited Mittelstadt, the Sabres’ No. 1 center coming out of training camp, to just seven games this year. He left the Sabres’ 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 30 after playing just 4 minutes, 59 seconds.
“He cleared all the tests and he wanted to go and pushed it,” Granato said of Mittelstadt’s return late last month. “He pushed it so hard he caused a little fluid buildup and some muscle responses around the injured area.”
In other injuries news, goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, out since suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 11, rejoined his teammates for Tuesday’s practice inside KeyBank Center.
Granato said Luukkonen, 22, responded well to the session.
The Sabres don’t have a timeline for the Finn’s return to game action. They host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
“Probably we’ll know more tomorrow and go from there,” Luukkonen said.
Luukkonen, a youngster labeled as the team’s goalie of the future, has performed well in nine games this season, compiling a 2-5-2 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
The rookie he was injured when he caught his skate blade on the post early in the Sabres’ 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It put weight on top of my knee and it’s kind of bad luck,” he said. “It’s nothing crazier than that.”
Luukkonen stayed in the game but left after the first period.
With Luukkonen back, the Sabres had three goalies – Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski also practiced – on the ice Tuesday.
Could the Sabres potentially keep carrying all three?
“That is yet to be determined as far as how we’ll go about it because of all the injuries and rosters spots and those things all come into play,” Granato said. “Obviously, right now, with the players we have out, we do have roster spots.”
Some other injury updates are below.
– Vinnie Hinostroza, out since suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 17, practiced Tuesday in a non-contact role before limping off the ice. He’s listed as day to day on the team’s injury report.
Granato did not have an update on Hinostroza.
– Granato said winger Zemgus Girgensons, whose lower-body injury forced him to be shut down after he played Jan. 25, could start practicing again late this week or early next one.
“This week is going to be a little more rehab. It should get him to the point where he’d be integrated with us by early next week,” Granato said.
– Granato said winger Drake Caggiula, out since Nov. 22, is seeking more opinions for his upper-body injury.
“He’s not responding … to recovering as what was the most hopeful case,” he said.
Caggiula’s listed as month to month on the injury report.
– Defenseman Will Butcher (lower body) and winger Jack Quinn (lower body) are listed as week to week on the injury report.