BUFFALO – After sitting out Sunday afternoon’s win, Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk will return tonight against the New York Islanders and play his 500th NHL game.
To make room for Pysyk, Sabres coach Don Granato said Robert Hagg will be scratched. Granato expects Hagg to sit out just one game.
With seven healthy defensemen, Granato has been rotating players in and out. Jacob Bryson watched one game last week before Pysyk was scratched for the Sabres’ 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the first time he has sat out this season.
Pysyk skated beside Bryson this morning inside KeyBank Center.
In scratching Pysyk, 30, and Hagg, 27, Granato dressed two rookie defensemen – Casey Fitzgerald and Mattias Samuelsson – over two veterans.
“We have liked Fitzgerald and Samuelsson together,” Granato said of the pairing.
In other news, Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt (upper body) skated this morning but won’t return tonight. Mittelstadt hasn’t played since Jan. 30.
Granato said Mittelstadt, who was experiencing problems after undergoing surgery in early December, is getting “better and better every day.”
“So very positive that he’s progressing the way he is,” he said. “Beyond the injury, it’s progressing into conditioning now.”
Granato said the Sabres are trying to push Mittelstadt “even above game demand to see how he responds.”
“The nice thing is the response that we’re getting now is that his body has to recover from a workout,” he said. “The injury doesn’t seem to be any issue, so we’re past that hindrance, which is a real good thing. The last complications he has were the muscles around the injury overcompensating and tightening up, and we’re not seeing that now, we haven’t to this point. So that’s really encouraging.”
Mittelstadt’s last appearance was the second game of a back-to-back. The Sabres play Saturday and Sunday. How would the Sabres handle his recovery if he can play?
“Who knows, I might think he’s fine for back-to-back,” Granato said. “But we would monitor that after game one.”
Granato said goalie Dustin Tokarski will start tonight.