Following a 10-day break from game action for the bye week and the NHL All-Star Game, the Buffalo Sabres returned to the ice on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators to start a stretch of nine of the next 10 games to be played at KeyBank Center. However, the Sabres ended up losing 5-2 on home ice after being tied up at 2-2 in the third period.
The Sabres' penalty kill unit was a huge factor in Buffalo's downfall as three of Ottawa’s goals came while the Sabres were shorthanded. With Buffalo trailing 3-2 late in the third and on the power play, they ended up pulling the goalie for the extra attacker, but failed to convert and ended up giving up a shorthanded goal in the process.
However, the big story from Tuesday night's game was the injury to Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark, who left the game in the third period due to a lower-body injury. The 26-year-old ended up getting his right leg caught up under him in his crease, and ended up needing help off the ice.
Ullmark had just been starting to establish himself as the No. 1 goalie in Buffalo with his recent play in goal, but now the Sabres will have to turn to Carter Hutton in goal, who has not won a game, in which he has started, since Oct. 22 against the San Jose Sharks.
Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger knows how important a player like Ullmark is to a Sabres team that still has aspirations of making the playoffs.
“It’s something we have to take really seriously,” Krueger said during the Howard and Jeremy on Wednesday morning on WGR. “We expect to lose him for a few games, the question will be, how many? He is being diagnosed this morning, and we should know more in a couple of hours, but we do expect a setback.”
That setback is expected to be 3-4 weeks, as the Sabres announced late Wednesday morning.
With Ullmark set to be out for the next few weeks, the Sabres made a call up on Wednesday, bringing up goalie Jonas Johansson from the Rochester Americans. The 24-year-old has had a stellar season with the Amerks this year, currently sitting third in the American Hockey League for goals-against average (2.19) and fourth in the league for save percentage (.925). Those numbers were good enough to earn Johansson a spot in his first career AHL All-Star Game.
The Buffalo net will likely belong, though, to Hutton until further notice, even though he has lost his last 11 starts and has not gotten much support around him on the ice. However, Krueger believes that it is still a day-to-day process for Hutton to re-gain the play in goal that he is capable of.
“We’re continuing to try to fix things a day at a time whether we’ve had a good day a bit of a rougher night like last night," Krueger said. "We’re here today to work with the bodies that are healthy and the guys that are here and Carter has been working very hard on getting his confidence up and on his game and had a good finish last night.
"We’re optimistic that he can be a strong goalie for us [Thursday] night against Montreal, but after that it’s day to day because we aren’t too sure how long Linus will be out. If he is out awhile it becomes a two goalie competition again with one of our depth players and we will see how that evolves.”
In other injury news, Krueger did say that the Sabres are optimistic that rookie forward Victor Olofsson is still about five or six games away from returning. He has been out of action since Jan. 2 when he sustained a lower-body injury.
In terms of Tuesday night's game against the Senators, Krueger hit on the fact that penalties and, at times, sluggish play are what really hurt the Sabres in the loss.
“We had three shorthanded goals against, we had four penalties in the offensive zone and both of those are just unacceptable. In general, there were phases in the game where in the second period, we had two long shifts in our end where we just seemed to be a step behind and weren’t able to put the defensive pressure on Ottawa that we’d like too.”
Krueger did compliment the game Ottawa played, but assured fans that the Sabres will come out much better in Thursday's game against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center.
You can listen to Krueger's entire interview below: