Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had his first practice with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday after being called up from the Rochester Americans on Thursday. He made it to Buffalo before the snow storm hit.
The Sabres say Eric Comrie is out multiple weeks with a lower-body injury. Luukkonen is looking forward to getting some NHL time.
“It’s really exciting, and it’s always a goal to play in the NHL as much as you can. So it’s something I look forward to,” said Luukkonen following Friday's practice.
Luukkonen was the best goalie in training camp, but Comrie was handed the job as the Sabres' No. 1 goalie as soon as he signed. This is an opportunity for Luukkonen, because Comrie is still trying to find his way as the Sabres' top netminder.
The 23-year-old has played well in Rochester, but his numbers don’t show it, because he had back-to-back games where he gave up 11 goals in less than two games of work. Luukkonen knows he needed to rebound from those two games.
“There was a couple of games which I was not too happy about, but overall, I think I’ve been able to help the team win. That’s the most important thing,” Luukkonen said.
Luukkonen leads the AHL with six wins, and he credits his work done in September for that.
“It helps to have a good training camp to build your confidence up," Luukkonen said. "I think that, and overall feeling good about yourself."
Even though Luukkonen was their best goalie in camp, he was going down to Rochester because they wanted to enhance his development by getting him games.
“For him to accept going back down there and see it as his opportunity to keep developing, which he may not have that as a focus if he was the No. 1 guy in the NHL," said Sabres head coach Don Granato. "For him to embrace that is really key, because he is better every time. He’s fought harder in practice, he’s prepared better.”
Luukkonen worked on losing some bulk in the offseason. General manager Kevyn Adams felt it might help him avoid injury if he was lighter.
“His fitness coming into the season, you still see he leaned down a little bit," Granato said of Luukkonen. "His agility, his ability to get in and out of low positions and movements are just sharper, more efficient while expending less energy, as well.
“He maintains more of a level during a game, where you might have seen more fatigue last season.”
Luukkonen says him being more lean makes him feel great about himself
“Feeling good about what shape you’re in and how your body feels,” he said.
With the injury to Comrie, the time is now for Luukkonen, and that isn’t lost on him.
“I focus on the moment," Luukkonen said. "You can’t change the past, and the way to change the future is to do it right now. So I try not to get ahead of myself or think about the past too much.”
Jack Quinn was back on the ice on Friday and will play on Saturday.
Granato says if defenseman Mattias Samuelsson wants to play in Toronto, he would have to do a lot of convincing to him, and it would have to be done on Friday. Samuelsson has only had two practices, and Granato feels he probably needs more reps.
Both Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo will be re-evaluated for their injuries on Monday.
Skinner – Thompson – Tuch
Quinn – Cozens – Peterka
Krebs – Mittelstadt – Olofsson
Asplund – Sheahan – Hinostroza
Dahlin – Power
Samuelsson – Jokiharju
Bryson – Lyubushkin
Pilut - Fitzgerald