BUFFALO – Before Dan Bylsma answered a question about the suspect hit that likely concussed Sabres winger Dan Catenacci late in Thursday’s ugly 5-1 road loss in Philadelphia, the coach paused for a few moments.
Clearly, Bylsma, who said he hadn’t watched a replay, wanted to choose his words carefully.
Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who has a reputation for questionable hits and has been suspended by the NHL once, won’t have a disciplinary hearing, according to the Cherry Hilly Courier Post’s Dave Isaac. Meanwhile, Catenacci will miss tonight’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
Gudas hit a vulnerable Catenacci while he had his head down and was engaged with another player.
“Gudas steps up into that hit without any other possibility than to hit his head first,” Bylsma said inside the First Niagara Center. “That’s the way I saw it in my mind’s eye last night.”
Bylsma said Catenacci is OK but also dealing with side effects.
The Sabres, of course, are livid with Gudas. Defenseman Jake McCabe, who immediately fought Gudas, had instigator penalty rescinded by the league, he said, meaning his automatic one-game suspension has been voided.
Sabres winger Marcus Foligno, who fought Gudas earlier in the game after a hit, said he was “disappointed” the Czech won’t face any discipline.
“I mean, that guy’s an idiot, and that’s all I can say,” Foligno said. “I mean, that guy, he’s been doing it for years … and gets away with a lot of cheap shots.”
He added: “Jake did the right thing. He’s a big boy and he handled himself.”
Is Gudas a dangerous player?
“I think you got to know when he’s out there,” McCabe said. “He plays teetering that line. With his previous suspensions, that speaks for itself.”
With Catenacci out, the Sabres, losers of four straight contests, will recall a forward from the AHL before the game, Bylsma said. Winger Zemgus Girgensons and center Johan Larsson are still out.
Update: The Sabres have summoned forward Phil Varone from the Rochester Americans. Varone, 25, had one goal in four NHL games earlier this season. To create a roster spot, the Sabres placed Catenacci on injured reserve.
Williamsville native Justin Bailey, fresh off a superb NHL debut Thursday, will play his first home game tonight.
“It’s extra special it’s in my hometown,” Bailey said. “I got a ton of family, friends coming tonight.”
Bylsma called the winger, 20, the Sabres’ best player following the loss.
“I would love to see him duplicate exactly how he played last night,” Bylsma said. “I know your first game’s a pretty big moment. There’s usually a lot of nerves going through you when you have that first game. … I’m sure he’ll have that same feeling when he steps out on the ice tonight.”
In other lineup news, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will play his first contest tonight since Jan. 5. Incredibly, it will be only his second appearance since Dec. 7. Colaiacovo patiently waited for his opportunity.
“I think he’s handled it like a professional,” Bylsma said. “I know he’s been disappointed with not getting in there and having the opportunity to play. I said to him his last four practices have been outstanding. He’s worked at his game in practice; he’s worked diligently.
“I told him that’s not why he’s getting an opportunity to play tonight, but it has shown exactly where his mindset’s been, and I think he’s ready to step in and do a job.”
Defensemen Mark Pysyk and Mike Weber will likely be scratched. Pysyk hasn’t been a healthy scratch this season.
Goalie Chad Johnson will start for the Sabres tonight, his 32nd appearance.