In this edition of Buffalo Sabres News & Rumors, Casey Mittelstadt scores a goal in his return from the injured reserve, the Sabres prepare to debut its newest goaltender Malcolm Subban and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is loaned back to the Rochester Americans in the AHL.
Mittelstadt Scores First Goal of Season in Return from Injured Reserve
After going down with an upper-body injury in the Sabres’ opening game of the season, a 5-1 win at home over the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 14, Mittelstadt made his return to game action against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Despite the team’s 7-4 loss, he was a bright spot for Buffalo with a goal in his first game back.
With 8:44 remaining in the second period, Mittelstadt made a bolt up the left side of the ice and got himself open to receive a clean pass from Rasmus Asplund along the boards. On a partial breakaway, pushed to the outside by Panthers defensemen Radko Gudas and Matt Kiersted, Mittelstadt waited out goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky before firing it through the five-hole to give the Sabres a 4-1 lead in the game.
The 23-year-old forward is looking to make a big impression this season, and by scoring a goal in his first game back from injury, he is doing just that. Look for Mittelstadt to continue developing as a goal-scorer this season now that he is back in the lineup. If he continues finding the scoresheet for Buffalo, he will give the team a huge boost going forward.
Newly-Acquired Goaltender Subban Getting Another Shot in NHL with Sabres
On Thursday, the Sabres acquired its newest goaltender from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations. Subban, who has a .893 save percentage (SV%) in five AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs this season, will get another shot in the NHL after Buffalo’s rocky start in net.
Subban is a former first-round draft pick, selected 24th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2012. Since then, he has played in 82 NHL games with the Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights and Blackhawks, recording a combined .899 SV% and 3.02 goals-against average (GAA). Last season, he played 16 games (14 starts) with Chicago, holding a .900 SV% and recording two shutouts.
Buffalo may be Subban’s last chance to make it in the NHL, and he surely won’t let the opportunity slip. Born in Toronto, he will be playing close to home as a Sabre and look to establish himself as the team’s best hope in net this season. Five seasons ago, he put up strong numbers in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, recording a .910 SV% and 2.68 GAA in 22 games (19 starts). He now has another chance for a fresh start, under less pressure, as the newest member of the Sabres.
Goaltender Luukkonen Loaned Back to Americans in AHL
Dubbed the Sabres’ goaltender of the future, Luukkonen is headed back to the Americans, where he has posted a .888 SV% and 3.42 GAA in 12 games this season. The 22-year-old played his first and only NHL games with the Sabres last season, recording a .906 SV% and 3.88 GAA in four starts. Although he is headed back down to the AHL, it may not be long before he gets another look in Buffalo.
The Sabres have struggled in net through the first quarter of the season, and are now calling on Subban to fix the team’s goaltending woes. Buffalo, for now, will be relying on Subban and Dustin Tokarski, who has a .903 SV% and 3.28 GAA in 14 games (13 starts), to guard the blue paint. With the Sabres having no proven goaltenders actively playing on the roster, there is a good chance Luukkonen earns another call up to the NHL at some point soon. Until then, he will look to improve his numbers in Rochester as he continues gaining experience in North American professional hockey.
The Sabres’ next game is on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Buffalo is looking to end a three-game winless skid against Carolina, who is tied for seventh in the NHL standings. The Sabres are six points out of a wild card spot and will need to start stringing wins together soon if it hopes to stay in the playoff race.
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Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.