BUFFALO – Alex Tuch thought his upper-body injury would heal a bit faster. The Sabres winger never anticipated missing three contests, including captain Kyle Okposo’s 1,000th NHL game.
“It was something that we didn’t want to flare up again,” Tuch said following Thursday’s practice in KeyBank Center. “We just wanted to make sure to keep it under control. … Just wanted to be 100 percent. It was really tough on me to miss Okie’s 1,000th game, too, and that’s something I really pushed hard for. I thought I was going to be back even before that but didn’t work out how I wanted it.”
Tuch, who practiced in a non-contact jersey on the top line, said he’s ready to play tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, the start of a three-game road trip. Sabres coach Don Granato said Tuch must receive final approval from the medical staff.
“He looks back to normal,” he said.
Granato also said goalie Eric Comrie, who has missed the last eight games with a lower-body injury, needs medical approval. Comrie had his own net during Thursday’s session, a sign he could play tonight.
Rookie winger Zach Benson, who has missed the last seven games, with a lower-body injury, practiced Thursday at left wing alongside center Casey Mittelstadt and JJ Peterka.
Comrie and Benson are both on injured reserve, so the Sabres must make moves to activate them.
The Sabres, who have scored just two goals during their two-game losing streak, sorely need Tuch. Center Tage Thompson suffered an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s 5-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins and is week to week.
Tuch skated at right wing Thursday alongside center Dylan Cozens, who moved into Thompson’s spot, and Jeff Skinner.
With Thompson absent, Tuch said the Sabres “just gotta attack.”
“We have to realize how good we are,” he said. “Play with that confidence that we were able to find through longer stretches this year at times, but we haven’t been able to find that consistency.”
Prior to his injury, Tuch had found a groove following a slow start, scoring three goals in his last two outings and four goals and nine points over a seven-game stretch.
“I was starting to find my game a little bit more,” he said. “Got back to how I was playing maybe last year and confidence was a little higher. I was able to find the back of the net a couple times. You know what, it wasn’t too long ago, so hopefully I can continue that.”
In other news, defenseman Henri Jokiharju practiced Thursday as an extra after missing the last three days because of illness.
“We didn’t know we’d have him in practice this morning based on how he felt prior to coming in this morning,” Granato said.
Granato said the Sabres must see how Jokiharju responds to the session.