BUFFALO – It’s not even Halloween, and the Sabres’ season is already starting to fall apart.
If losing for sixth time in eight tries wasn’t bad enough, winger Evander Kane left the Sabres’ 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils with what appeared to be a left knee injury after David Schlemko hit him hard into the corner boards with 9:31 left in the game.
Kane, perhaps the Sabres’ most natural goal scorer, stayed down on the First Niagara Center ice for a couple of minutes in noticeable pain clutching his knee before skating off gingerly to the dressing room. He didn’t return.
Coach Dan Bylsma had no update on Kane following the Sabres’ second home loss in two days.
“It’s two guys battling and they’re going in together, and he gets turned and they’re knee-on-knee, it goes into the boards,” Bylsma said. “I don’t want to speculate, OK?”
Kane only has one of the Sabres’ 15 goals, but he scored his first Wednesday and appeared to be coming on.
The Sabres could now be without Kane in addition to top defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower body) and starting goalie Robin Lehner (ankle).
The Sabres played better Saturday than they did a day earlier in an ugly 7-2 loss to Montreal, taking two leads against the Devils.
But a short-handed breakaway goal from Adam Henrique almost midway through the third period, the eventual winner, and scores in the final minute of the first and second period doomed the Sabres.
A big save from rookie goalie Linus Ullmark, who made his NHL debut, would’ve helped.
“I just don’t like the timing of the goals,” Bylsma said. “We needed a save.”
While no would say it, Saturday was an audition Ullmark. Right now, with Lehner out until possibly December and backup Chad Johnson fresh off a wonky performance, Ullmark, 22, might have a chance to wrestle the No. 1 job away.
Johnson, who has mostly subbed admirably for Lehner, doesn’t appear to be a long-term option in net.
Enter the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Ullmark, a 2012 sixth-round pick. Ullmark made 24 stops against the Devils, looking sharp at times.
“We have a lot of belief in Linus as a goalie,” Bylsma said.
The Swede underwent surgery on both hips in April and only played three games in North America before the Sabres summoned him from the Rochester Americans on Friday.
Johnson’s shaky 19-save outing hours later didn’t force the Sabres to start Ullmark, Bylsma said.
“We called him up so that he could get an opportunity to play,” he said.
Clearly, the Sabres want Ullmark to step up and grab the job. Bylsma said his reports from Rochester said Ullmark was the best player on the ice every game.
The NHL, however, is a much different pace than the AHL.
“It was very fast pace out there,” Ullmark said. “But it wasn’t as I expected. There’s some things I need to work on in my game to … be able to compete with these guys on the same level.”
So Ullmark doesn’t work out and Johnson looks iffy again, what will the Sabres do?
Bylsma said he hasn’t spoken to general manager Tim Murray about adding another goalie.
“It’s not a road we’ve gone down,” he said.
Tyler Ennis, Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel scored for the Sabres, who carried the play for stretches before the 18,040 fans.
“A lot of things go right, but a lot of things go wrong, too,” Eichel said. “We need to clean it up. Two games this weekend we could’ve taken points away from.”