Ullmark to miss 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury

Linus Ullmark
Photo credit Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel - USA TODAY Sports
By WGR 550 SportsRadio

The news regarding Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark may be better than what was once thought.

The team announced on Wednesday that Ullmark was expected to miss 3-4 weeks of action with a lower-body injury suffered on Tuesday night in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

The Sabres have announced the following update regarding goaltender Linus Ullmark. pic.twitter.com/CS76u47UQj

— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) January 29, 2020

The 26-year-old netminder was injured during the third period of Tuesday's game when he appeared to have lost balance in his crease and got his right leg caught underneath his body. Ullmark needed some assistance to get off the ice, and he ended up being replaced by Carter Hutton.

"We're disappointed for him and for us because he was really building a good season here," Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said following practice on Wednesday. "We have an excellent staff that's going to bring him back as quick as possible. He's in their hands now."

With Ullmark out for an extended period of time, the Sabres have called up goalie Jonas Johansson from the Rochester Americans to help fill a hole while Hutton re-takes the starting duties for Buffalo.

The 24-year-old has had a stellar season with the Amerks in the American Hockey League, posting a 13-3-3-2 record with a 2.19 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and two shutouts. His goals-against currently sits third amongst all goaltenders in the AHL, while his save percentage ranks him fourth in the AHL. Those numbers helped Johansson earn his first AHL All-Star Game nomination of his professional career.

"We have Jonas here, who's earned this opportunity to join us," Krueger said of the rookie goaltender. "He's had a terrific season so far in Rochester. He's been an All-Star there, which everybody knows, and now we have to work with Huts [Hutton> and Johansson and do the best we can with this group moving forward."

Johansson was in Ontario, California for the AHL All-Star Weekend starting Sunday with the All-Star Game taking place on Monday. He then returned to Rochester on Tuesday, only to be recalled and in Buffalo for practice with the Sabres by Wednesday morning.

"It's been an intense 48 hours," Johansson said after taking part in his first NHL practice. "It's just really fun. I'm enjoying it."

It was Amerks head coach Chris Taylor who gave Johansson the news on Tuesday that he was getting the call up to the Sabres, which made the young netminder very excited for the opportunity.

"I'm just trying to take it all in now. I'm trying to enjoy every moment, and just work hard and try to get even better and even further," Johansson said.

Johansson first came to North America back during the 2016-17 season and managed to appear in seven games with the Amerks after signing an amateur tryout with the club. Later in May, the Sabres signed Johansson to his three-year entry-level contract.

Over the course of the next two seasons, Johansson spent a majority of his time in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones learning the professional game and adjusting to the new life here. He got some chances sprinkled in to appear for the Amerks, which got better with each passing season.

Johansson started out as a raw talent coming over from Sweden, but has really grown his game as he got more acclimated to the North American style of play and caught up to the pace of the game. 

"It's quicker on the smaller rink, and it's [more fun> too. I really enjoy that," Johansson said. "And with more games to play, you have to find those habits and having good routines to play more consistent." 

This season in Rochester was an opportunity for Johansson to take the reins in goal after recovering from hip surgery that ended his season prematurely in Cincinnati. After originally splitting time with Andrew Hammond with the Amerks, Johansson started to earn the right to become the regular starter with his solid play in the crease.

"I think I just found really good habits from the start," Johansson said. "Me and Hammond have been working really close and helping each other out to doing goalie drill with each other. I think I just found good habits in practice and on game days, and it's been working fine."

The young Swede will now have the chance to back up Hutton for a decent stretch of games moving forward and continue to take his game to the next level.

It has been a rough stretch of games for Hutton, who has lost his last 11 starts after winning his first six starts to the 2019-20 season. Overall this season, Hutton has a 6-7-4 record with a 3.31 goals-against average, an .892 save percentage and two shutouts.

Despite the recent struggles and the injury to Ullmark, Hutton is looking forward to getting back in the saddle and trying to help his team get back into playoff contention.

"It's exciting to get in there," he said following Wednesday's practice. "Obviously when you play in this sport, there are injuries. I've been in this situation before, and I feel bad for him because he's been playing great. He's been rock solid all year, and I think he was having a career year. It's a tough injury... He'll come back, but right now I just have to go in there, play hockey and it will be fun."

The last few starts for Hutton have been tough games where either he has gotten some tough bounces against him, or the defense in front of him has left him out to dry. In his last three games, Hutton has gone 0-2-1 with a 5.64 goals-against average and an .817 save percentage.

The going has been rough for Hutton in that stretch, but he is trying to do all he can to get back into the groove he was in earlier this season where he had been playing well, even if the games didn't go in his favor.

"You just work hard. We find different things to chip away at and kind of build your game. It's been a bit of a roller coaster this year. Obviously there's some stuff that goes on behind the scenes, so you just try to stick with it. It's such a long season, right? So for me, nothing changes. I've been doing this for a while now. I'm just excited to get in there and play."

Hutton has been with the Sabres organization for nearly two full seasons, but has only gotten to work with Johansson for the past two training camps on limited time. However, the veteran netminder had plenty of good things to say about his counterpart and is looking forward to working with him and getting to know him more.

"He's a really nice kid, works hard," Hutton said. "Getting the chance to play in the [AHL> All-Star Game is a pretty big credit to him. The American league is a heck of a league. It's sometimes almost harder to play goal down there. So far, just even seeing him today, he looks great out there. He works hard, he's a big kid, he moves well, and I think he's got great attitude. I think you're going to see a lot of him. He looks like he's ready to make the jump.

"I'm a guy that kind of came he hard way to make it here, so any guy like that who just keeps working hard, you like seeing that."

In other news from practice on Wednesday, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was absent from the skate, but Krueger said that he was given a maintenance day.

Here is how the lines looked at practice:

 

Girgensons - Eichel - Reinhart

Skinner - Johansson - Frolik

Vesey - Lazar - Okposo

Sheary - Larsson - Rodrigues

 

Dahlin - Miller

Pilut - Bogosian

McCabe - Jokiharju

Montour

 

The Sabres will have a team meeting on Thursday morning before they take on the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center at 7 p.m.