BUFFALO – Originally, the right ankle injury Chris Stewart suffered March 6 was supposed to shelve the Sabres winger the rest of the season.
But Stewart said he “really turned the corner” a couple of weeks ago. At that point, the 26-year-old decided he would push to return this season.
Tonight, Stewart, who arrived from St. Louis on Feb. 28, will play his third game with the Sabres.
Why come back with just four games left in a miserable season?
“I think it’s a pride thing,” Stewart said this morning inside the First Niagara Center. “I wasn’t really willing to accept my season to be done in the beginning of March considering that’s going to be a long offseason.”
Stewart, a 6-foot-2, 231-pound power forward, will skate on the right wing tonight beside center Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno against the Detroit Red Wings.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan loves bullish presences and has spoken highly of Stewart, who has two 28-goal seasons, the last five weeks.
“Stewart’s a power forward in the real sense of the word,” Nolan said. “He’s a big man. He can play any way you want to play.”
Stewart wreaked havoc in the Sabres’ 3-1 win in Tampa Bay before Lightning goalie Anders Lindback hit him as the two chased a loose puck.
At first, it appeared Stewart had hurt his knee. The injury looked awful.
“If you see the pictures, it obviously could’ve been a six-to-eight month rehab,” he said.
What does Stewart think of Lindback’s hit?
“It’s a Catch-22,” he said. “Obviously, you’d like to see the goalie stay in the net there. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I tried to get out of the way and look for the puck first. So I can’t necessarily say the next time I won’t remember this. I’m definitely going to protect myself.”
He added: “I don’t think he did it on purpose.”