BUFFALO – In his four-year pro career, Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has never played a postseason game.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs two straight years. Last year, Luukkonen suffered an injury late in the regular season and missed the Rochester Americans’ 10-game playoff run.
This year, the Sabres did not make Luukkonen, who started the season in Rochester, available to the Amerks, who open the playoffs Friday.
Coach Don Granato said the Sabres wanted Luukkonen, who did not play any of the Sabres’ final seven games, to focus on his duties in Buffalo.
“You’re going to shift the mind, right?” he said during Wednesday’s end-of-season news conference in KeyBank Center. “If you send them down or paper transaction him on that day, his mind is in two places and that’s not conducive to development. There was there was so much development for him (in Buffalo).”
Granato stressed that while Luukkonen, 24, started just one game after Devon Levi began playing in late March, the presence of another young goalie benefited him.
“Having another peer come in like Devon is a massive development for him because now he can see what the future might be here with those two,” he said of the rookies.
Levi, 21, and Luukkonen could share Buffalo’s net next season.
“We got a lot out of Upie and I think Upie got a lot out of having Devon in here and vice versa,” Granato said. “Devon got a lot out of having Upie here. I can’t imagine if Upie was in Rochester at that time and Devon didn’t have a peer here. So love to see those two here.”
The Sabres did not assign anyone to Rochester following last Friday’s season finale. A year ago, they sent three players to the Amerks for the postseason.
Luukkonen began the campaign in Rochester, playing nine games before the Sabres recalled him when goalie Eric Comrie injured his MCL.
The Amerks have been utilizing a goalie tandem of Malcolm Subban and Michael Houser. Subban played a career-high 39 games. Houser, meanwhile, earned the team’s unsung hero award.
Luukkonen said on Sunday he was fine with staying in Buffalo.
“I started the year there (in Rochester) but they’ve been on a great run,” said the Finn, who has played 69 games for the Amerks since 2019-20. “I feel like they have two good goalies there, too, they’ve been playing for that team. They’ve been winning games for that team. They got the team to the playoffs. So, I mean, of course you want to play games but also feel like those guys deserve to play, too, and maybe it’s not my spot to go there and just play in the playoffs.”
On March 7, ex-Sabres forward Hudson Fasching scored what would be the winning goal early in the third period of the New York Islanders’ 3-2 victory over Buffalo.
On the ice, officials immediately waived the goal off because Fasching kicked the puck into the net.
But following a review, the call was overturned, and the goal counted. The NHL Situation Room sent an email that night explaining “video review determined that the puck deflected … into the net in legal fashion.”
That ruling turned out to be huge, as the Sabres missed the playoffs by a single win.
Adams acknowledged on Wednesday he talked to the league following Fasching’s goal.
“It’s really hard, OK, because I do understand the emotion, but I struggled with the rationale,” he said. “Because it looked pretty clear to me. I think it is hard because there is a lot of gray area, especially in that goal.”