Matt Hackett could be the Buffalo Sabres’ new starting goalie.
With a lower-body injury putting newcomer Chad Johnson’s season in doubt, the Sabres recalled Hackett from Rochester on Saturday and started him hours later against the Washington Capitals, his second NHL appearance this season.
Hackett must play eight NHL games or he will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Sabres need to evaluate goalies for next season, so he could receive a long look.
The 25-year-old endured a long road back to game action, rehabbing almost nine months after suffering a gruesome right knee injury on April 12. He made his season debut Jan. 10 with the Americans.
Hackett is 7-4-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in 14 AHL games. He stopped 29 shots Friday in the Amerks’ 3-1 win against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“He had a great game (Friday),” Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters in Washington. “Actually, (he) has been playing really well.”
Hackett replaced Anders Lindback, who subbed for Johnson after he was injured late in the team’s morning skate Friday.
“Lindback, a good night but he was banged up a little after the game,” Nolan said.
Nolan said Johnson, acquired Monday from the New York Islanders, will be out “a while.” He acknowledged Johnson’s season could be over when asked later. Johnson was set to make his Sabres debut.
With Hackett up, the Sabres sent goalie Andrey Makarov back to Rochester. They also sent center Mikhail Grigorenko down from his emergency recall because winger Zac Dalpe returned from his family matter. Grigorenko skated 13 minutes, 42 seconds Friday.
The Sabres made one defense change Saturday, inserting Tyson Strachan for Nikita Zadorov.
Update: Sabres defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who took a Brooks Orpik shot in the head during the first period, “could miss a little while” with an upper-body injury, Nolan told reporters in Washington following the Sabres’ 6-1 loss.
“I don’t think too long,” he said.
Nolan put defenseman Zach Bogosian, who blocked an Alex Ovechkin shot with his right leg late in the second period, in the same category.
“We’ll see what the doctors say,” Nolan said.