Henri Jokiharju has scored three goals this season. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres notes: Henri Jokiharju displays offense; Buffalo makes roster move

BUFFALO – The Sabres mostly utilize defenseman Henri Jokiharju in a defensive role, meaning other than occasionally quarterbacking the second power-play unit, he rarely gets to display his offensive talent.

“Usually five-on-five through the regular 60 minutes of a game, he’s very responsible and focused so much on defense that you don’t get to see some of his offensive touch,” coach Don Granato told reporters Saturday in Minnesota after Jokiharju scored the overtime winner in the Sabres’ 3-2 triumph.

But in three-on-three overtime, everyone must possess an offensive mindset. When Jokiharju jumped off the bench and grabbed winger Alex Tuch’s pass high in the slot, Granato said he “knew what he was doing from the moment he touched the puck.”

Jokiharju, 24, unleashed a one-timer, beating Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson 1:29 into the extra session.

“He’s an interesting player because he’s got some real good offensive instincts, and you see it in practice,” said Granato, whose Sabres host the Anaheim Ducks this afternoon at KeyBank Center. “You see the shot that he took, the quick release perfectly placed.”

The goal was just Jokiharju’s third in 46 outings this season and the 16th of his 319-game NHL career.

Granato clearly feels comfortable giving Jokiharju more responsibility. Injuries to defensemen Mattias Samuelsson, who’s out for the season, and Owen Power have recently created more opportunities for him. Granato has used the Finn in Power’s spot on the man advantage and also upped his minutes.

In the last three games, Jokiharju has averaged 23 minutes, 29 seconds of ice time, more than five and a half minutes above his season average.

Naturally, with Samuelsson and Power sidelined, Granato has thrown more on defenseman Rasmus Dahlin’s plate.

On Saturday, Dahlin, Jokiharju’s partner, played a career-high 30 minutes, 47 seconds.

“He’s never getting an easy shift out there, so it’s a grind for him,” Granato said.

The Sabres on Sunday sent defenseman Kale Clague back to the Rochester Americans following a two-day recall.

Clague, 25, hasn’t played during his two brief recalls this season to serve as an extra defender.

He spent most of last year in Buffalo, playing a 33 games. In Rochester, where he has compiled three goals, 23 points and a minus-8 rating in 42 games this season, he has tried to focus on the defensive side of the game.

“My whole life playing with the puck, I guess, it’s come a little bit more naturally,” Clague said of playing offense. “So just focusing on getting back to the fundamentals and the basics, and I’ve learned a lot with (Seth Appert), great coaching staff down there.”

The Sabres had Sunday off.

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