In this edition of Buffalo Sabres News & Rumors, Kyle Okposo is riding a six-game point streak, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is recalled to the NHL and Malcolm Subban‘s recovery timeline is unclear after suffering a lower-body injury.
Okposo Takes Sabres Lead in Points After Six-Game Point Streak
Okposo’s assist on Zemgus Girgensons’ second-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday marked his sixth consecutive game with at least one point. The 33-year-old forward has tallied seven points (two goals, five assists) on his latest point streak. With Tage Thompson held pointless in Carolina, Okposo is now the sole leader in points on the Sabres with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 24 games.
Already surpassing his points total from last season (13 points in 25 games), and just two away from tying the season prior’s (19 points in 52 games), Okposo is off to an incredible start in his 15th NHL season. His veteran presence in the Sabres’ youthful locker room earned him alternate captain honors, but he is proving to be more than just a great mentor. With Buffalo eight points out of a wild card spot, look for Okposo to continue his hot start to the season in hopes of helping the Sabres turn its season around and remain competitive in the playoff race.
Luukkonen Recalled to Sabres Just Days After AHL Assignment
Only three days after being reassigned to the Rochester Americans in the AHL, Luukkonen is recalled up to the Sabres on Monday. The move comes after newly-acquired goaltender Subban went down with a lower-body injury halfway through the third period in his Buffalo debut against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Luukkonen’s latest recall may see him start the fifth NHL game of his young career.
The Sabres are struggling to solidify a goaltending tandem with three goalies out due to illness or injury. Craig Anderson remains out month-to-month with an upper-body injury, Dustin Tokarski is in COVID-19 protocols and Subban is sidelined with a lower-body injury. Luukkonen, who is widely considered Buffalo’s goaltender of the future, could see NHL action for the first time this season as him and Aaron Dell are the only available goalies to guard the blue paint for the Sabres right now.
Luukkonen has a .888 save percentage (SV%) and 3.42 goals-against average (GAA) in 12 AHL games with the Americans this season. In four starts with the Sabres last season, he recorded a .906 SV% and 3.88 GAA.
Subban’s Recovery Timeline Unclear After Injury vs. Hurricanes
Subban had a rough outing in his Sabres debut against the Hurricanes on Saturday. After allowing six goals on 25 shots (.760 SV%), the 27-year-old goaltender left the game with a lower-body injury. It is still unclear what the severity of the injury is and how long it will take him to recover, but either way, his exit spells more issues for Buffalo as the team continues to search for a solution in net.
Although Subban’s stats from Saturday aren’t very pretty, he wasn’t given much of a fair chance with weak defense by the Sabres against a highly-skilled and hungry Hurricanes side.
“I thought we gave up too many good chances,” Buffalo head coach Don Granato said in his postgame interview. “We talk a lot about contested chances. Tonight, we gave up more uncontested chances than normal for us even though the shot volume was much lower. I thought we gave up more uncontested opportunities for them.”
As the Sabres doctors continue to evaluate Subban’s injury, the team will need to continue experimenting with its goaltenders in hope of finding some success in net. If Subban’s injury is short-term, he will likely be back for another chance to prove himself in Buffalo soon.
The Sabres host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Buffalo is looking to end a four-game winless streak against the tenth-ranked team in the NHL standings. The game will provide a tough challenge for the Sabres, especially with its ongoing issues to find a sustainable starter in net.
Tom Pepper hosts The Hockey Writers Podcast and writes the “NHL Talk” column every weekday (Monday to Friday). He also writes the daily “NHL Sound Bites” column. He is a diehard Buffalo Sabres fan in Toronto, frequently driving the Queen Elizabeth Way to cheer on his team at KeyBank Center.