BUFFALO – Defenseman Alexander Sulzer hadn’t been seen much around the Sabres since injuring his knee early in a 4-0 home loss to the New York Islanders on Feb. 23.
On Thursday, though, the German was spotted on crutches sporting a cast around his right leg in the First Niagara Center dressing room.
Not long after, interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston said Sulzer had undergone successful surgery to repair his ACL and would be out the rest of the season.
“He’s on the recovery path right now,” Rolston said after the Sabres practiced Thursday.
Initially, Rolston said, doctors couldn’t diagnose the injury, which happened when Sulzer’s skate got caught in a rut, because of swelling.
Sulzer has missed the last eight games. The 28-year-old played 17 contests this season, compiling three goals, four points, a plus-3 rating and 10 penalty minutes.
When the Sabres sent Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver in a swap of seventh defensemen at last year’s trade deadline, few thought Sulzer would contribute much.
In other injury news, it’s “highly likely” Sabres winger Ville Leino, sidelined by a hip injury since Jan. 18, will make his season debut Saturday at home against Ottawa, Rolston said.
“He’s looking good,” Rolston said. “Today we did a lot of defensive things and some more battle, and he’s doing well, where we wanted him. Tomorrow will be another test for him. But we’re putting him in every situation we can right now to make that happen.”
Leino skated Thursday on the left wing with rookie Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott, his place before going down two days before the season opener.
“It’s the best I felt all year, so (I’m) really excited,” Leino said.
Meanwhile, center Tyler Ennis practiced in a non-contact role, his first session since Wayne Simmonds crunched his into the boards from behind Sunday in Philadelphia.
Rolston said it’s a “strong possibility” Ennis, who was “dinged up” and received stitches on his forehead, can return Saturday.
“I feel good,” said Ennis, who still had a little stiffness.
Ennis said Simmonds’ “dirty” hit, which wasn’t penalized, should’ve gotten the winger suspended.
“People can say I turned and stuff,” Ennis said. “It’s happened before where guys turn and it’s no problem. But I had a problem with that one. I feel like he was on my numbers the whole time. I feel like he kind of launched into me. I thought it was dirty.”
Ennis, who was zooming into the zone as he got hit, also said: “At that particular time, I felt like it was not the best play by him. I wish he got suspended or fined or something. I wasn’t happy with it. I’m not happy that he didn’t. Moving forward, I’m going to keep playing the same way.”
The Rangers’ Dan Girardi hit Ennis from behind into the glass March 3 in New York, earning a boarding penalty.