BUFFALO – Sabres coach Ralph Krueger’s decision to award goalie Carter Hutton the opening night start against the Washington Capitals wasn’t surprising.
Yes, Hutton, 35, struggled most of last season, losing 12 straight decisions at one point. But his turnaround started at the end of 2019-20, when enjoyed a 6-2-0 run in February.
Hutton performed strongly throughout training camp this year, quickly morphing into one of the Sabres’ standouts. Meanwhile, goalie Linus Ullmark missed the first four sessions of camp as he quarantined at home.
So Hutton stood out as the logical choice for tonight’s game at KeyBank Center, the first of a back-to-back set.
“We’ve really liked Carter Hutton’s camp and he’s come in here extremely confident, very fit, and he’s in a good place,” Krueger said on a Zoom call this morning. “We’re excited about that.”
Ullmark will likely play Friday’s game.
Hutton said “everyone’s pumped up for the Sabres’ first game since March 9.
“Getting to start at home here is nice,” he said. “Just as a team, being able to not be in a hotel and stuff and be in our homes and stuff. So it’s exciting. It’s been a long break.”
In other news, winger Kyle Okposo, who left Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, did not skate this morning. In his spot at right wing beside center Cody Eakin, Dylan Cozens will be making his NHL debut tonight.
The Sabres drafted Cozens, 19, seventh overall in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Sabres assigned rookie winger Jack Quinn, 19, to the taxi squad this morning. They selected Quinn, 19, eighth overall in October.
Here are tonight’s lines and defense pairs:
– Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel and Tage Thompson
– Victor Olofsson, Eric Staal and Sam Reinhart
– Tobias Rieder, Eakin and Cozens
– Jeff Skinner, Curtis Lazar and Riley Sheahan
– Rasmus Dahlin and Brandon Montour
– Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen
– Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju