Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Zemgus Girgensons returned to practice for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, while Casey Mittelstadt wasn’t on the ice. Head coach Don Granato said Mittelstadt is seeing a specialist and has been put on injured reserve. That means he will be out a minimum of seven days.
There isn’t a roster spot for a call up so things will fall back on Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens. Granato said, “Tage has progressed through the season and continues to progress and Dylan has been on a surge which has been a career high level, so it’s nice that those two are still trending very well, but you’re not going to replace Mitzy because he’s on our team, so you don’t replace that. He’s coming back at some point and you do what you can until he gets back, so you do what you can in the interim and those are two guys you definitely are going to lean on.”
Before the Sabres got shutout by the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, Cozens had scored in three straight games and had four goals and six points in seven games. In 13 games Cozens was trending on a 30 goal pace.
Granato said, “He’s starting to see the game in different ways that he never saw before. He’s manipulating situations in different ways than he ever thought he could and thought of and it’s fun to watch.”
Granato feels like Cozens welcomes situations in a game because he doesn’t stress out about it, “A couple of weeks ago those situations stressed him out. You saw anxiety and there’s none right now.”
Cozens has been on a line with Kyle Okposo who just had a six-game points streak broken. Okposo is on a 21 goal, 58 point pace and Granato likes him with Cozens, “My thought when I did that was Okie’s been through any ups and downs Dylan could go through, so he’s very stabilizing and he has offensive IQ as Dylan does and they’ve been very good together.”
Cozens and Mittelstadt credit Okposo as a mentor. He said, “I love talking to those guys because they have such a different perspective than when I first got into the league and sometimes you forget about your mindset when you were younger and it’s just pure hockey for those guys, so that different perspective helps me a lot and I love when those guys just ask questions and we just have conversations about anything.”
Granato said Malcolm Subban had another good rehab skate, which was encouraging.
Skinner – Thompson – Olofsson
Asplund – Cozens – Okposo
Girgensons – Eakin – Hayden
Murray – Jankowski – Hinostroza
Tuch – Bjork
Dahlin – Jokiharju
Butcher – Pysyk
Hagg – Bryson - Miller