BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres loaned rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to Rochester on Monday, but they don’t plan for him to stay there long.
Luukkonen, whose six-game win streak is the longest among active NHL goalies, will remain part of a three-man shuffle in Buffalo’s net, now that Eric Comrie has been activated from injured reserve after missing nearly two months with a lower-body ailment.
The 23-year-old Luukkonen was recalled Thursday to start the Sabres’ home game against Winnipeg. Rookie winger Jack Quinn was assigned to the AHL club in a paper transaction to create roster space for Luukkonen.
“We have three guys now that are healthy, that we believe in,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams told reporters before Monday’s game. “We’ll figure out a way each day to kind of see what the day brings. But I think it is realistic. I don’t want to look too far ahead. This is going to be a daily kind of roster management discussion.”
Comrie stopped 18 of 22 shots in Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Kraken, his first start since Nov. 16, after backing up Craig Anderson in Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Flyers. Luukkonen was scheduled to start Tuesday before getting sick, coach Don Granato said before the game. Luukkonen is expected to be back with the Sabres soon, though that would require some roster maneuvering.
Defenseman Henri Jokiharju was activated from injured reserve Tuesday after missing three weeks (lower body), further limiting the Sabres’ roster flexibility. The Sabres waived defenseman Casey Fitzgerald to create a roster spot for Jokiharju, and the Sabres’ third-round pick in 2016 was claimed by the Panthers on Wednesday.
Luukkonen has compiled a 9-3-1 record, .891 save percentage, and 3.57 goals-against average since getting called up from the AHL when Comrie got hurt. Luukkonen has maintained a .918 SV% over his six-game win streak, stopping 35.3 shots while allowing 3.2 goals per game.
“We really like where UPL’s game is right now, the way he’s progressed and developing and the games he’s played,” Adams said. “Tough buildings, tough teams. He looks like he’s got a calmness to him and there’s a confidence that our group has playing in front of him.”
Comrie is 4-8-0 with a .883 SV% and 3.67 GAA. After a strong start to his first season with the Sabres, Comrie struggled behind an injury-depleted defenseman corps in losing his last four starts before getting hurt Nov. 16 in Ottawa.
“We believe in him,” Adams said. “We really think that he’s everything we thought we were going to get when we signed him in terms of how he’s integrated into the team and the locker room and the culture of what he does every day and his work ethic is off the charts.
Following Monday’s loss, Anderson has a 7-6-1 record, .921 SV%, and 2.70 GAA. The 41-year-old has rarely played more than once a week in his 20th season.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Adams said. “Whatever we think is best for our players individually and our team, we’re going to do whatever we can to do it.”