Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – Things have gone from bad to worse for the Buffalo Sabres' goaltending situation, as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury, while Malcolm Subban is month-to-month with an upper-body injury.
Luukkonen left Tuesday night's loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning after just one period and did not return.
Late in the second period of the same game, Lightning forward Pat Maroon ran into Subban, who struggled to get back to his skates. Since the Sabres didn’t have anybody else available in goal, Subban gutted it out and finished the game.
Dustin Tokarski is still struggling from the effects of COVID-19, but he’s doing what he can until he feels 100%. He’s still going to be out of the lineup on a week-to-week basis.
Craig Anderson is atill not practicing with the team, and continues to be listed as month-to-month.
That means the Sabres are down to their fifth- and sixth-string goalies.
Aaron Dell was called back up from the Rochester Americans on Wednesday. With the Amerks this season, Dell’s a perfect 5-0-0 with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. With Buffalo, however, he’s 0-5-0 with a 4.52 goals-against average and an .872 save percentage.
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin says even though they have four goalies out, they have to remain positive.
"What can you do?," Dahlin said after Wednesday's practice. "We have other goalies that can stop pucks. "We’re a team, so new goalies come in and we really trust the goalies we have right now.”
Don Granato was in Rochester last Friday and saw Dell play.
“He looked like a different guy," said the Sabres head coach on Wednesday. "I’m not so sure we saw what he is, because he struggled early. There’s no question. But I think he’s better than he showed, and he even looked like a different guy in practice. So the hope is he’s feeling a little bit better about his game.”
The Sabres also announced the signing of goalie Michael Houser to a one-year deal for $750,000. He had to come up last year to Buffalo due to injuries. He went 2-2-0 in four games played with a 3.46 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
This season in Rochester, he’s gotten into 11 games with a 5-4-0 record to go with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Houser also spent time this year with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL, going 1-2-0 with a 3.68 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage.
With Luukkonen in Buffalo, Houser has gotten more of an opportunity in Rochester.
“I’ve started to play more and more lately, and my game feels pretty good," Houser said after Wednesday's practice. "I’ve been getting into a nice rhythm, especially when 'Deller' had his baby two weeks ago. So I got all the games that week.”
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams has said time and time again that they’re going to leave a lane open for their young goalies. That means they aren’t trading for big ticket goalies, or signing goalies to long contracts and big money.
Anderson and Dell got one-year deals so Luukkonen, Erik Portillo and Devon Levi have clear lanes to the NHL through the AHL.
Before practice, Jack Quinn and Casey Fitzgerald were both sent to Rochester. Granato said defenseman Robert Hagg will return to the lineup on Thursday, while Alex Tuch and Kyle Okposo will also likely make their return.
Despite being Buffalo’s best player on Tuesday, the organization feels getting Quinn back to the AHL is what’s best for his development.