BUFFALO – Slowly, the Sabres, a team riddled by injuries and illness, are getting back to full strength.
Three more players – center Cody McCormick, winger Matt Moulson and defenseman Mike Weber – will return tonight against the New York Islanders following a three-day Christmas break. Still, the Sabres have only 11 healthy forwards, so they will recall a forward soon, coach Ted Nolan said this morning.
Update: The Sabres have recalled center Mikhail Grigorenko.
Moulson, a former Islanders star, missed three games after being sent home with the flu last Saturday. Luckily, it wasn’t mumps, an illness that has spread throughout the NHL.
“I think everyone’s worried about that, what’s going on throughout the league, but I got all the testing done for it,” Moulson said inside the First Niagara Center.
Moulson said he started feeling better Monday.
Meanwhile, Weber missed six games following left knee surgery.
“I was available for the last couple, err on the side of caution,” Weber said.
Weber said he figured it was good to have surgery with some breaks in the schedule.
“It got to the point where it started locking up on me and a little bit too much swelling to the point where we couldn’t control the swelling anymore,” he said.
The hard-nosed McCormick missed six games with a lower-body injury. He was also banged up earlier this year.
“I feel a little fragile this year so far,” McCormick said. “Hopefully, a little more durable going forward.”
He added: “I think it’s probably years of how I play. I’m not going to change anything. That’s what got me here and what keeps me here.”
In other news, goalie Jhonas Enroth will for the Sabres tonight. Kevin Poulin will start for the Isles, who placed former Sabres goalie Jaroslav Halak on injured reserve today.
Other injury updates from Nolan:
– Defenseman Tyler Myers (lower body) is still week-to-week.
– Captain Brian Gionta (upper body) is “still out for a little bit.”
– Defenseman Tyson Strachan (lower body) is “pretty close.” Strachan skated this morning.
– Center Marcus Foligno underwent surgery on his hand and is out a month or two.
Growing up in Mississauga, Ont., John Tavares’ father was a big Doug Flutie fan. So when the diminutive star bolted from the CFL to the Buffalo Bills in 1998, the elder Tavares kept watching Flutie play quarterback.
“That’s kind of when I started watching football and saw Doug Flutie doing those great things for the Bills,” Tavares, a New York Islanders superstar, said this morning inside the First Niagara Center.
Tavares has been a Bills fan ever since Flutie’s rollicking return to the NFL.
“That was a tough loss last week,” he said about the Bills’ embarrassing 26-24 loss to the hapless Oakland Raiders. “I think everyone was excited about their opportunity, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. So hopefully next year’s the year.”
Is Tavares with the Bills through thick and thin?
“I think I’m kind of on the wagon, off the wagon a little bit,” he said. “But certainly every Sunday I see how they’re doing and check on them. I actually talk to Matt about how they’re doing quite a little bit, especially since he’s here now. So certainly they’re my team.”