The Buffalo Sabres will likely welcome back three players but will be without their top center when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
Alex Tuch, Eric Comrie and Zach Benson are each expected to be back against Winnipeg while Tage Thompson will miss his first game with an upper-body injury sustained Tuesday after blocking a shot in a loss to the Boston Bruins. Thompson is week to week and his absence “should be less than” two months, coach Don Granato said.
Dylan Cozens was elevated into the No. 1 spot at practice Thursday, with Tuch and Jeff Skinner on his wings.
“Obviously, that’s not the way I want to get more ice time by someone going down, but, obviously, as a centerman, I know I’m going to have to step up here,” Cozens said. “I know I haven’t been playing as best as I can to start this year, but I think it’s an opportunity for me to find my game and get going here and do my best to help the team.”
Tuch has missed three games with an upper-body injury. While he wore a yellow no-contact jersey at practice, his first with the team since getting injured, he said he feels “good and ready” and that “it’s a coach’s decision now.” Granato said it’s a “very easy decision” and that Tuch looks back to normal.
That’s good news for the forward and the Sabres. After a slow start, Tuch has shown lately more of the form that helped him to a career-high 79 points (36 goals, 43 assists) last season, including three goals in his past two games.
“I feel like I was starting to find my game a little bit more,” he said. “Got back to how I was playing maybe last year, and confidence was a little higher. … You know what, it wasn’t too long ago so, hopefully, I can continue that and, hopefully, I can continue to try to be better every single day.”
Comrie, who has missed eight games with a groin injury, will “in all probability,” be activated Friday, Granato said.
Benson has missed seven games with a lower-body injury. The 18-year-old rookie has played six games thus far, leaving him with three more until Buffalo has to decide whether to keep him beyond that — triggering the first year of his entry-level contract — or send him back to Wenatchee of the Western Hockey League.
The Jets enter the contest winners of four of their past five, including a 6-3 win against the New Jersey Devils in their most recent outing Tuesday. They’ve scored at least five goals in each of those wins.
Kyle Connor is leading the way with 13 goals, tied for first in the NHL entering Thursday’s schedule. He extended his point streak to four games with a pair of tallies against the Devils, recording 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in that span.
“There are just certain players around the league who you play with or play against who have that goal-scoring knack,” defenseman Josh Morrissey said of Connor. “It’s his skill, it’s his smarts, it’s his shot, it’s all of that.”
Associate coach Scott Arniel opted for 11 forwards and seven defenseman Tuesday but was uncertain about using it again after forward Rasmus Kupari was injured in the first period and with the Jets beginning a back-to-back Friday.
“I like doing it,” Arniel said. “You couldn’t do it on Friday night, with a Saturday game because … somebody is probably getting worn down a little bit too much. I’ll probably look back to going to a regular roster.”
–Field Level Media
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