Tage Thompson skates during Tuesday’s first period. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres notes: Tage Thompson returns from injury; Alex Tuch could play soon

BUFFALO – Sabres center Tage Thompson said he originally expected the left hand injury he suffered on Nov. 14 would sideline him four to six weeks.

“Things progressed a little quicker,” Thompson said prior to recording an assist in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in KeyBank Center. “X-rays came back good.”

Thompson’s injury healed so quickly that he returned in just three weeks. Despite the layoff, he played after participating in just one morning skate with his teammates.

“Happily surprised,” Sabres coach Don Granato said of his early return. “We talked yesterday … and he felt his conditioning is in a really good place. He wanted to feel a little battle this morning and he knows his body well, he knows what it takes to perform and wanted this morning to confirm it.

“And that’s great news. In light of a lot of other challenging situations, that’s a real plus for us to have him back in the lineup.”

The Sabres sorely need Thompson, 26, their leading scorer last season. They went 3-5-1 during his nine-game absence and had lost three straight games entering Tuesday.

Having lost wingers Alex Tuch and Jordan Greenway over the weekend, they’ve become very thin up front.

In Sunday’s 2-1 home loss to the Nashville Predators, Tuch, Thompson’s regular linemate, suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Granato said Tuch and Greenway, who possibly hurt his shoulder in Saturday’s 6-2 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, will both be sidelined about seven to 10 days.

“I don’t expect either of them to be longer than that, although one of them is going to have something that will nag him for a quite a bit after that,” Granato said. “But he should be able to play.”

The Sabres activated Thompson prior to the game and placed Tuch and Greenway on injured reserve.

While Thompson was ready to play, he did not skate at center. Instead, he played at right wing alongside center Casey Mittelstadt and Jeff Skinner. Thompson also manned his usual spot in the circle on the power play.

“Probably if I had to, I could play center,” said Thompson, who had scored six goals and 12 points in 16 games this season entering Tuesday’s contest. “Probably just trying to ease back into it, see how the hand feels and take it maybe a period at a time, go from there.”

Thompson did not take any faceoffs.

“Shooting feels 100 percent normal, no issues there,” he said. “I haven’t even tried faceoffs. I mean, it’s kind of just something where I just really didn’t think there was a need for it. If we got a lot of guys down the middle right now that can take draws, no need to force it.”

Thompson, who was injured blocking a shot while killing a penalty, said he won’t change his style.

“You definitely don’t play the game to not get hurt, so any time there’s an opportunity to block a shot, I think you’re called to do it,” he said. “I think it kind of goes back to that compete and battling for the guy next to you. I think you’re willing to do those little things, sacrifice your body. Your teammates respect that and it adds up over time.”

Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen missed Tuesday’s game because he was sick. Eric Comrie started the contest.

To replace Luukkonen, the Sabres recalled rookie Devon Levi from the Rochester Americans.

The Sabres sent Levi, 21, to the Amerks last week. In his first two AHL games, he compiled a 1-1-0 record with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

With Luukkonen sidelined for the morning skate, former Sabres goalie Craig Anderson, a “hockey liaison” for the team, tended goal. Anderson retired following last season.

Sabres winger Jack Quinn, who’s skating again after tearing his Achilles tendon in late June, participated in Tuesday’s pregame skate wearing a non-contact jersey.

Quinn also joined his teammates for a morning skate last month in Washington. He’s aiming to return around Jan. 1.

The Sabres made one lineup change on defense, inserting veteran Erik Johnson and scratching rookie Ryan Johnson.

Notes: Two Sabres prospects – center Matt Savoie and goalie Scott Ratzlaff – have been invited to Team Canada’s selection camp for the upcoming World Junior Championship. … The Red Wings scratched South Buffalo native Patrick Kane, who signed a one-year contract last Tuesday. He’s expected to make his season debut Thursday. … Former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller attended the game.

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