Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – Henri Jokiharju is OK and was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday. He missed Tuesday's session with a COVID-19 testing problem.
The Buffalo Sabres had no more positive COVID-19 tests on Wednesday, while head coach Don Granato also had good news on defenseman Jacob Bryson.
“I don’t expect any chance that he’s playing, but he’s back," Granato said after Wednesday's practice. "He’s in the building and going through protocol upon returning, which that process probably pulls him out of eligibility for tomorrow’s game, by virtue of not skating and not being in shape to play at the NHL level. It would be tough for me, on a personal level even if he was cleared immediately to play a game, to throw him in there tomorrow, because he had that time off.”
Drake Caggiula is still practicing with a non-contact jersey, which means the Sabres will have to call up a forward from the Rochester Americans. The Amerks have a game on Wednesday, which Jack Quinn will be playing in after a bout with mono.
The weather is forecasting a bad winter storm for Thursday, but Granato said there have been no special preparations before that hits. He did say he knows he may have to make adjustments.
“We don’t want to create drama that may not be there either,” Granato said.
Granato said goalie Craig Anderson is still out month-to-month. However, there have been no discussions indicating that Anderson’s season could be over.
Dustin Tokarski only practices before and after practice. He sits on the bench in full gear during practice. He went into the NHL's COVID-19 Protocol back on Nov. 1 and still hasn’t been activated.
Victor Olofsson hasn’t scored a goal since Halloween, covering 17 games. He had five goals in October, but is still on a 17 goal pace over 82 games. For Wednesday’s practice, Olofsson was on the right wing with Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner. Granato said he senses frustration in Olofsson’s game, “Definitely, I think he has a personal standard that he feels he’s not achieving and he has that in his mind, so he’s looked within himself, specifically after this three-game set and the last couple days in practice he’s practiced with much more intent, so for me, he’s going to start scoring, he’s doing the right things and he’s going to get what he wants.”
When does Granato know that Olofsson is off his game? He said, “He’ll over handle the puck, he’ll massage it a little bit, he’ll stickhandle it to prep it, so it takes him longer to prep it because he doesn’t have that feel because of the injury that he went through and he might not even recognize it and that extra half second or a quarter of a second was the edge that he had where the goaltender is off his timing, so when he goes through an injury that affects his shooting, that complicates his scoring.”
One of the reasons Granato took Olofsson off Thompson’s line was so he wouldn’t have to face the other team’s No. 1 defenseman as he tried to get his shooting back.
Olofsson of course has not been happy with the slump he’s in. The winger said, “It’s frustrating for sure because I haven’t been able to use one of my best abilities out there, but there’s no excuses either, I’ve just got to do what I can control.”
Olofsson knows what he’s paid to do, “I see myself as a goal scorer and I haven’t been scoring this year at all except at the start (five goals in his first eight games), so it’s frustrating, but you usually go through periods like this and it’s a long season.”
Olofsson feels that when one puck finally goes in, he’ll start scoring. Jeff Skinner would be another example of a streaky scorer. The winger started the season with one goal in eight games and then he netted seven in 14. He then scored one goal in eight games before scoring in Boston.
Skinner – Thompson – Olofsson
Asplund – Cozens – Hinostroza
Caggiula – Eakin – Hayden
Murray – Jankowski – Girgensons
Dahlin – Jokiharju
Butcher – Pysyk
Prow - Miller