BUFFALO – The badgering has finally stopped. Josh Gorges is healthy, back playing after a hip injury cost him 12 games. So Sabres coach Dan Bylsma can walk by the defenseman again without getting an earful.
“Josh has been one miserable guy to be around,” Bylsma said Saturday morning. “I don’t walk by him without him saying he’s ready to play, and that was about 15 days ago.”
Gorges, 32, played in Saturday’s 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators inside KeyBank Center, his first action since Jan. 5. Meanwhile, defenseman Jake McCabe, 23, also returned after a shoulder injury sidelined him five games.
For Gorges, a proud, hard-nosed veteran, sitting out was excruciating.
“If it was up to Josh, he probably would’ve sat out 20 hours and not 20 days,” Bylsma said. “He’s been saying for a good portion of time he’s ready to play and could play and wants to play. His injury is one … he wasn’t able to have any activity for a portion of time.”
Gorges said: “It’s been a tough last month.”
What happened? Gorges developed a hematoma, “an abnormal collection of blood outside of a blood vessel,” according to medicine.net, in his hip.
“In all my years of playing hockey, I’ve never heard of anybody having this injury,” Gorges said.
Gorges said he “didn’t know how to deal with” the injury. In the beginning, he said he was in too much pain to move.
“The last two weeks the pain subsided, but I was still in a position where I couldn’t really do much,” he said. “They didn’t want to have me doing any type of training, working out, skating that might aggravate it, irritate it, make it blow up again.”
Gorges said he felt healthy and normal.
“As good as I felt, there was something wrong inside,” he said.
Talking to his doctors, Gorges decided the risk of coming back early wasn’t worth it.
“I understand that from a medical standpoint, but (as) a player you never want to hear that,” he said. “You keep pushing, say, ‘No, I’m ready.’”
Gorges kept getting pushed recently by rehab coach Dennis Miller, who dresses in full gear and replicates game situations with some rigorous workouts.
“He’s the best I’ve seen at getting you ready not just to get back in shape, but to get back to playing hockey,” Gorges said.
Gorges mostly played with Justin Falk on Saturday. Both players registered an assist on Kyle Okposo’s first-period goal.
Even with Gorges and McCabe back, the Sabres’ blue line is still banged up. Defenseman Zach Bogosian suffered a muscle/rib injury in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers and is day-to-day, Bylsma said.
The Sabres also scratched defenseman Taylor Fedun.
After playing center for the first time Thursday, defenseman-turned-winger Nick Deslauriers is ready to tackle another position for the Sabres.
“I’m waiting to see if I need to stack the pads in practice soon, just to have that on my resume,” the versatile Deslauriers joked Saturday morning. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad to be like that.”
Deslauriers became a winger in 2013-14 after starting his career as a defenseman, a move that helped him crack the NHL for the first time later that season.
“I’m used to changing positions quite a bit,” said Deslauriers, who has been scratched regularly in recent weeks.
Deslauriers had never played center until Thursday, when Bylsma, with no other options, inserted him in the middle of the fourth line.
“I didn’t get tested that much, so I don’t really have an output on being a centerman.” said Deslauriers, who played a career-low two minutes, 46 seconds over only five shifts Thursday.
Deslauriers played sparingly as a center again Saturday.
“It’s probably the hardest minutes you can play in a hockey game,” Deslauriers said of playing so little. “You got to stay focused. It’s not the minutes you want to be playing that low, but sometimes you get put in those situations. (They’re) pretty much critical.
“If you make a mistake, it might cost you the game. So that’s why you have to be a little bit more focused than everybody else and just keep it simple.”
Sabres rookie winger William Carrier will be sidelined “a little bit” with a knee injury, Bylsma said. To replace him, the Sabres recalled winger Justin Bailey from the Rochester Americans prior to the game.
Bailey, 21, has 19 goals and 29 points in 39 AHL games this season, including 11 goals in his last 12 contests. The Williamsville native has one goal in 10 NHL appearances this season.
The Sabres sent center Cal O’Reilly, who cleared waivers Friday, to the Amerks on Saturday.
Too good. pic.twitter.com/BEcKZpoSJi
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 5, 2017