In spite of the Buffalo Sabres record being in the bottom five of the NHL standings (10-19-6 – 26 pts), the collection of youngsters Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, and Dylan Cozens and journeymen under first-year head coach Don Granato have exceeded expectations this season, but after a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the club’s goaltending situation may cause any positive progress in the standings to evaporate as the club lost prospect Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen and backup Malcolm Subban to injury.
The Sabres entered the season with a group cobbled together after starter Linus Ullmark signed with Boston, with the plan of buying time and allowing Lukkonen to develop in the American Hockey League.
Veteran Craig Anderson played well in the opening month, but has been out with an unspecified upper-body injury since early November and is listed as month-to-month. Dustin Tokarski made the bulk of the starts in November but entered COVID protocol list in early December and while he has returned to practice, he is not close to being fully recovered.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams acquired Malcolm Subban from Chicago, but he suffered a lower-body injury in his first start and a more serious upper-body injury that has him listed as month-to-month. Buffalo called up Luukkonen from AHL Rochester in spite of putting up pedestrian numbers (6-6-0, 3.42 GAA, .888 save percentage) and leaned heavily on the 22-year-old Finn.
Luukonen has been impressive at times in his nine starts (2-5-2, with a 2.74 GAA and .917 save percentage in nine appearances), but has also been exposed at times by a below-average Buffalo defense. The youngster was pulled after allowing two goals on eight shots in the opening 20 minutes against Tampa and an MRI on Wednesday revealed a lower-body injury that will keep him out a few weeks.
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