BUFFALO – Of course, it’s tempting. Just having captain Brian Gionta back for practices has had a positive effect on the reeling Sabres. Coach Ted Nolan wants to play the veteran winger badly.
Nolan also wants to be careful and exercise some patience. So Gionta, out the last 10 games with an upper-body injury, will likely be sidelined until after the NHL All-Star break.
The Sabres play their first game after the break Jan. 27 in Calgary. Gionta hasn’t played since Matt Bartkowski’s high hit Dec. 21 in Boston flipped him over.
“We have to make sure you maintain that patience, make sure you’re doing the right thing for him for the long term,” Nolan said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “I’d play him tonight, to tell you the truth. But we’ll be a little more patient. If there’s that little question mark, we’ll wait until after the All-Star break.”
Nolan believes Thursday’s 90-minute session was “one of our better practices” and full of “morale” because Gionta and center Torrey Mitchell participated.
“Gionta, even though he’s not playing, just his presence in that room, especially with a young group, and especially with a team that’s fragile right now, you need that presence, that maturity and that experience around to help the guys get through it,” Nolan said.