BUFFALO – For months, the Sabres stayed remarkably healthy, especially up front, where the forward corps remained almost intact.
But now, they’ll be without first-line winger Alex Tuch for at least a few weeks after he suffered a lower-body injury in Friday’s 3-1 road win over the Florida Panthers. General manager Kevyn Adams said Tuch, 26, is week to week and he expects him to return before the end of the regular season.
To make matters worse, top defenseman Rasmus Dahlin missed Sunday afternoon’s 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals because of an undisclosed injury. Adams said Dahlin, 22, is day to day.
“It is a big double whammy, and that’s sports and you have to deal with it,” Sabres coach Don Granato said prior to the game in KeyBank Center. “It affects your confidence and you got to look in the mirror work on that issue.”
The loss of Tuch, a heart-and-soul player, is a potentially devastating blow as the Sabres fight for their first playoff spot in 12 years. He has morphed into a star this season, scoring 28 goals and 62 points in 57 games. Both offensive totals rank second on the team.
Tuch, who averages 18 minutes, 58 seconds of ice time a game, has spent most of the year skating at right wing beside center Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner.
“You just don’t replace that type of player in that type of role,” Adams said. “But we believe internally what we have in our locker room. It’s opportunity for guys to kind of step in and play a bigger role. But, yeah, I mean, it’s just a massive player in our lineup from everything he does, not just the offensive side. You see the minutes he plays, the situations he plays. Yeah, it’s tough.”
Adams wouldn’t reveal when Tuch, who blocked two shots against the Panthers, was injured. The Sabres placed him on injured reserve Saturday.
Meanwhile, Adams said Dahlin has been “battling through” his injury.
“But just got to a point where he has two get a day or two here and then we’ll reevaluate,” he said.
With Tuch sidelined, could the Sabres look for help before Friday’s trade deadline?
“We know these are critical games and it just puts us in a position where we’re more open to things than maybe before 48 hours ago,” Adams said. “But at the same point, we’re not going to compromise, do anything short-term that sets us back long-term. So it doesn’t change our plan or vision, but it just puts those conversations more (urgent) or front burner.”
The Sabres made one roster move Sunday morning, recalling winger Vinnie Hinostroza from the Rochester Americans.
Hinostroza, 28, was the odd man out when the Sabres decided to keep three goalies, and he spent the last month in the AHL, compiling five goals and nine points in 11 games. He recently caught fire, registering four goals and eight points in his last six outings.
He began the season with the Sabres, recording eight assists in 19 games. He hadn’t played in the minors since 2017-18.
In his first NHL appearance since Jan. 14, Hinostroza scored 10:07 into the second period, putting the Sabres up 5-2. He later assisted on center Dylan Cozens’ third goal.
“It was great to see Vinnie do that and perform the way he did,” Granato said. “The coaches’ report from Rochester and our conversations was he’s done the right things there to stay ready for this opportunity. We talked to him even when he left (and said), ‘There is going to be another opportunity, so make sure you’re ready for it, prepare for it, don’t dwell on anything.’ It was important to me to get him into the lineup because of my conversations with him to that end.”