Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – As the defensemen for the Buffalo Sabres are getting healthier, the team is now experiencing their first injuries at forward.
Sabres wingers Kyle Okposo and Jack Quinn missed practice on Monday. Okposo is day-to-day, while Quinn is being evaluated on Monday and isn’t likely to be available this week. Head coach Don Granato said one, maybe two forwards will be called up from Rochester on Monday.
On the back end, defenseman Henri Jokiharju was fully cleared to return to game action. In addition, defenseman Mattias Samuelsson hopes to join the team for practice this week.
Jokiharju missed 11 games with a fracture around his nose. Since coming back to practice, he’s used a tinted visor since he’s been sensitive to light. Jokiharju started practicing with the team last week, and he can’t wait to get back into the games.
“I’ve been away for a couple of long weeks, so it’s nice,” said Jokiharjo following Monday's session.
The 23-year-old defenseman says it was a challenge to keep himself in shape, and credited the trainers for keeping him in reasonable shape. There’s also nothing that can simulate game shape.
“It’s just a little different," Jokiharju admitted. "Usually the first time when you get back, you go 100 miles-per-hour, but you have to find a good rhythm. I think that’s the key.”
The Sabres' penalty killing has not been good without two key players in Jokiharju and Samuelsson. Buffalo is 27th overall with a success rate of 73.9%.
“I just need to be hard on pucks, and just go quick and close, and do my own job and make sure I do it as best I can,” Jokiharju said.
The Sabres go into Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks with a five-game losing streak. Their best game was Saturday's contest against the Boston Bruins, but they couldn’t get over the top. Granato knows teams around the league have been going on streaks, and his team does a good job of blocking out the noise.
Granato and general manager Kevyn Adams are 100% behind the plan to build this team, and 11 years of not making the playoffs or a five-game losing streak isn’t going to change it.
"You can’t let that change what needs to be done," said Granato after Monday's practice. "Everybody is going to have challenges throughout the season and its experience, but this is experience. You can’t let it break you. It breaks lots of teams, it breaks lots of players, and we will not let it break us. We’re steadfast in what we do, we know it’s going to work, it is going to work 100%, so we just keep doing it.”
In my opinion, Craig Anderson has clearly been Buffalo’s best goalie this year. He’s played five games, while Eric Comrie has played 10. Granato says the reason Anderson has played well is because they’re managing his starts.
“We’ve been able to provide Craig the opportunity to play rested, which is not something you can't do often in this league," Granato said. "I think Craig is wise enough, because if he’s fresh, you can see how intelligent of a goaltender he is, how efficient of a goaltender he is. That’s been a huge key.”
Anderson was in net back on Oct. 22 when the Sabres faced the Canucks on their Western road trip. Buffalo won the game, 5-1, where the 41-year-old stopped 29-of-30 shots he faced.
Skinner – Thompson – Tuch
Krebs – Mittelstadt – Olofsson
Girgensons – Cozens – Peterka
Asplund – Hinostroza
Dahlin – Power
Bryson – Jokiharju
Pilut – Lyubushkin