INJURIES CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PLAYERS LIKE HACKETT
NASHVILLE – It seems as if every day, Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan has to provide an update on another player that has sustained an injury.
Tyler Myers, Marcus Foligno, Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka missed practice Wednesday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. Myers, Foligno and Mitchell got hurt in Buffalo’s game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Myers was tripped going in on goal midway through the third period and slid into the goal post. He took only three shifts after that.
Foligno blocked a shot by Brendan Gallagher while on the penalty kill in the second period and made his way to the bench after that. He ended up finishing the game with 16:19 of ice time.
Mitchell played virtually the entire game, his last shift ending with 1:01 remaining in regulation. He logged 15:42 of ice time, including 5:42 on the penalty kill.
Nolan said that Tuesday was more of a maintenance day for both Myers and Foligno. He expects Foligno to be ready to play against the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
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The team will examine Myers and Mitchell and decide later in the evening whether or not they’ll be able to play. Mitchell’s injury might be “a little more serious” than the others, according to Nolan.
Konopka missed the game in Montreal due to a back injury. Nolan said it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready Thursday night.
There’s a chance players will have to be called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to fill the holes in the lineup. The Amerks – on the second half of a back-to-back – host the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday.
“Almost every game somebody goes down. It’s one of those things, when things go bad, I guess they go bad,” Nolan said. “Now it gives a chance for some more kids from Rochester who’ve been playing well, maybe have a chance to play here the last six, seven games.”
Michal Neuvirth, who has not skated with the team the past few days, went back to Buffalo for further evaluations on his lower-body injury. He made his last appearance in net on March 13.
Jhonas Enroth did not travel with the team for their five-game road trip due to a lower-body injury he sustained on March 16. Nolan said he’s also being re-evaluated and that there’s a chance he could return before the season ends on April 13.
Hackett picked up his first win with the Sabres on Thursday in Edmonton, where he made 35 saves. On Monday, he stopped 33 shots in a 2-0 loss in Montreal.
“Hackett definitely earned it. That’s one thing about now, it’s audition time. You audition and you do a couple good auditions, you should get another one,” Nolan said.
Before practice on Tuesday, Hackett sat on the bench with goaltending coach Jim Corsi as the two went over some video. Corsi and the defense then did some drills with Hackett toward the end of practice.
With the team’s busy travel schedule lately, there hasn’t been much time for on-ice work and Hackett said he’s glad they got the chance to go over some things in Nashville.
"It’s nice to get out there and can actually feel the puck, kind of work on a few things with him,” he said. “He wants me to keep my hands forward. They’ve been creeping back a bit in my stance so that’s one thing we’ve tried to focus on a bit. Just being sticky, like he says. Try and make saves look easy and keep them in my chest.”
Hackett said he felt calmer in his second start than he did in Edmonton.
“I felt maybe a little more relaxed, with the puck handling, especially,” he said. “I had a few good touches out there, maybe a couple mishandles, but I felt more comfortable going back there and I thought I was just seeing the puck pretty well.”
Hackett’s performance against the Canadiens is the one that made Nolan lean toward starting him against the Predators.
“He played well the last two games, particularly last game in Montreal,” Nolan said. “I thought he was the difference maker. It could’ve been a lot worse, but he kept us in the game.””
Nolan was asked if the players realize they’re being evaluated every day to see if they fit into the team’s plans moving forward.
“I had a great conversation with [Sabres broadcasters and alumni] Brad May and Rob Ray on the airplane last night,” Nolan said. “They played as they had because they’re very competitive people and the one thing they both said to me was, ‘Do these guys realize that they’re auditioning? Do they realize some of them, their contracts are up? Do they realize?’ So I’m hoping they do.”