BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Just four games left for the Buffalo Sabres, and in keeping with the theme of the season, they’re dealing with another injury in the net. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen went down in Saturday’s game and did not return. Dustin Tokarski was not on the ice Monday, which means the Sabres will start their sixth different goaltender of the season when Michael Houser makes his NHL debut.
“It’s a little nervous right now, but I think after the puck drops, settle in, hopefully get a quick touch and then you know it’s just another hockey game,” Houser said.
Houser hasn’t played in a competitive hockey game in nearly 14 months. His last game was for the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL on March 11th, 2020. He’s not backing down from the challenge, though.
“I’m going to have to tell myself I’ve played 1 million of these before, just different players on the ice, but it’s exciting,” Houser said. “There’s nothing to back down from. Been waiting for this for a long time so just ready to get going to it tonight.”
Houser went 16-5-5 in Cincinnati in the 2019-2020 season. He’s spent the past nine seasons in either the AHL or the ECHL.
“It’s still hockey,” Houser said. “I’ve always viewed myself as a hockey player and that’s always been my job. Ever since I turned pro at 20 I’ve just been working for this moment. The work never changes based on where your playing whether it’s Cincinnati, Rochester or Buffalo, it’s always the same work. I practice the same way and just have different players against me and in front of me.”
Interim head coach Don Granato spoke positively of the goaltender as he steps into a tough spot.
“Everybody that knows him is excited for this opportunity for him as I am,” Granato said. “Based on all of that and what I’ve seen from him too. He’s been great. It’s not an easy spot for any of the taxi guys to grind through this every day, it becomes monotonous for them because they are not in the lineup and he’s been outstanding through that.”
The Sabres play the Islanders at 7 p.m.