BUFFALO – Five years into his NHL career and 21 games into his new gig as the Sabres’ starter, goalie Carter Hutton’s mentality hasn’t changed.
“He’s just trying to prove himself every day, whether (it was) earlier in his career, when he was a backup, (or) now he’s in the No. 1 position where he’s played a lot of hockey,” said Sabres coach Phil Housley, who knows Hutton from his days as a Nashville Predators assistant. “He’s always looking for something to prove. He’s always had to do it his whole career.”
Hutton will start again tonight against the Arizona Coyotes. An upper-body injury sidelined him one game before he backed up Linus Ullmark for Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings.
After signing a three-year, $8.25 million contract July 1, Hutton has often been the Sabres’ backbone this season, tending some terrific goal.
But leadership qualities and what he brings off the ice have probably been just as valuable to the Sabres, a young team learning to win.
Right away this season, Hutton, 32, became one of the Sabres’ strongest voices.
“Carter brings a lot of energy to the game every day and passion to the game and his work habits and his work ethic speak a lot about who he is,” Housley said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “There’s a lot of other intangibles that come into play. Being in the room and the veteran experience and the way he communicates within our group, it’s been invaluable.
“To top if off, he’s played some really solid hockey for us. It’s great to see him doing well. You look at his track record and what he has had to do to get here, it’s a lot of work. He’s earned everything that he’s gotten.”
Hutton, who hasn’t played in 10 days, isn’t worried about the layoff.
“It wasn’t that long,” Hutton said. “I’ve found sometimes with these bye weeks and Olympic breaks, I’ve played some of my best hockey after it. So it doesn’t really translate, I don’t think. Sometimes the rest is nice, to come back a little bit rejuvenated.”
In others news, the Sabres will use the same 18 skaters as Tuesday, meaning an upper-body injury will sideline defenseman Marco Scandella for the eighth straight game.
Housley said he wants Scandella to have one more practice.
– How’s this for an incredible stat? The Coyotes have scored 11 short-handed goals this season and only allowed eight power-play scores in 85 attempts.
“It is extraordinary,” Housley said. “It says a lot about that group. They’re taking a lot of pride in it and now they have confidence in it they can take that extra play and extend and get on top of it and force things.”
– Sabres winger Sam Reinhart has career-long seven-game point streak (five goals, 10 points) entering tonight. Reinhart has compiled 23 points in the last 23 contests.
– Housley said forward Patrik Berglund is still sick.