In this edition of Buffalo Sabres News & Rumors, Robert Hagg will miss another game on Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is named as the Sabres’ starter for the first time this season and Malcolm Subban is making progress in his recovery from a lower-body injury.
Hagg Remains Out of Lineup vs. Ducks With Nagging Injury
After missing the Sabres’ game at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, defenseman Hagg remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury for Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. The 26-year-old has tallied four points (one goal, three assists) in 23 games this season. In the meantime, Will Butcher is taking his place on the blue line.
Hagg is in his first season with the Sabres, after playing 236 games as a member of the Philadephia Flyers. He is serving as an incredible shot-blocker for Buffalo’s struggling goaltenders, ranking sixth in the NHL with 52 blocked shots this season. With the Sabres down three goaltenders due to injury and illness, his presence is certainly missed on Buffalo’s backend. The Sabres have two days off after Tuesday’s matchup with the Ducks, so Hagg could potentially return for Friday’s game against the New York Rangers.
Luukkonen Earns First NHL Start of the Season on Tuesday
Sabres head coach Don Granato announced Luukkonen will make his first NHL start of the season against the Ducks on Tuesday. After Subban went down with a lower-body injury in his Buffalo debut on Saturday, a spot opened up to give Luukkonen another chance at playing in the big league.
Luukkonen has played 12 AHL games with the Rochester Americans this season, recording a .888 save percentage (SV%) and 3.42 goals-against average (GAA). The last time he saw NHL action was last season, where he posted a .906 SV% and 3.88 GAA in four starts with the Sabres.
The 22-year-old, dubbed as Buffalo’s goaltender of the future, faces a tough test against the Ducks, who enter the game ranked 10th in the NHL standings with a 13-8-5 record. Anaheim has seven players with at least 15 points, and three with at least 20 points, so Luukkonen will need to be sharp if he hopes to pull out a win for the Sabres.
Subban Making Progress in Lower-Body Injury Recovery
Subban returned to the ice on Tuesday morning, skating on his own following a lower-body injury suffered against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Head coach Granato says the 27-year-old goaltender, recently acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, is making “definite progress” in his recovery.
Until Subban is ready to return, Luukkonen and Aaron Dell are expected to guard the blue paint. The Sabres’ other unavailable goaltenders include Craig Anderson, who is out month-to-month with an upper-body injury, and Dustin Tokarski, who is in COVID-19 protocols and listed as week-to-week.
When Subban recovers, expect him to come back with a vengeance as he looks to prove himself worthy of a full-time job in the NHL. With 83 games of experience as a member of the Boston Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago Blackhawks and now Sabres, he is at a prime stage to make a break into the big league. It is promising news that he is making progress in his return, so look for him to get another chance in Buffalo’s net in the near future.
The puck drops at KeyBank Center for the Sabres’ matchup against the Ducks on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Buffalo looks to end its four-game winless streak in the first contest of a three-game home-stand.
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Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.