BUFFALO – Patrick Kaleta’s facial injury isn’t as bad the Sabres originally feared, and the winger could miss as little as a month, coach Ted Nolan said Tuesday.
“It’s still serious,” Nolan said inside the First Niagara Center. “It’s not going to be a three-month thing. It’s could be a less-than-month type of thing. So we’re thankful for that.”
Kaleta and forward Johan Larsson were injured early in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout exhibition loss in Toronto. Larsson, Nolan said, is out about 10 days after Petter Granberg elbowed him in the face. Morgan Rielly’s slap shot hit Kaleta in the jaw area.
“Larsson’s is a serious issue, but not as real serious as it could have been,” Nolan said.
Nolan doesn’t think Granberg hit Larsson intentionally.
“I don’t know the real history of that player, but he doesn’t look like that type of player,” he said. “He just kind of turned around in an awkward situation.”
Officially, Kaleta and Larsson have upper-body injuries.
“We know what the upper body is,” Nolan said.
Nolan feels badly for the oft-injured Kaleta, a tenacious agitator who’s returning from a torn ACL. Clearly, he would’ve made the Sabres. The Angola native made a strong impression.
“His effort and his commitment and what he did in the offseason to get back to where he is right now is enough for me to see how much character this young man has and how much he really wants to be a Buffalo Sabre,” Nolan said.
Forward Matt Ellis was among seven players the Sabres sent to Rochester on Tuesday.
The Sabres also assigned: forwards Joel Armia and Tim Schaller; defensemen Drew Bagnall and Nick Petricki; goalies Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov.
Ellis and Bagnall must clear waivers to reach the AHL Americans. The 33-year-old Ellis captained Rochester late in 2012-13 and last season before earning a 50-game recall.
The Sabres have 30 players left in training camp. They host the Washington Capitals tonight.
The Sabres mixed up some lines Tuesday, putting Brian Gionta on the right wing beside center Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson. Drew Stafford moved to the right wing with center Mikhail Grigorenko and Cody Hodgson.
Nolan said he wanted to spread Gionta’s leadership around for a bit on different lines.
“Now we got to worry about Brian and see how we can help him out,” he said. “By putting him with Ennis, we got a legitimate center ice man that can feed him the puck.”