BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres open a four-game homestand down two of their top four defensemen, and it could be weeks before Buffalo’s thin blue line is at full strength again.
Mattias Samuelsson will miss “a few weeks” before having his lower-body injury reevaluated, general manager Kevyn Adams said at Thursday’s morning skate, and another veteran defenseman Henri Jokiharju is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
“It’s a heck of a challenge,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “Two guys that play a little over the 20-minute range, but they could play 30 minutes for us. Those are guys we’ll miss until they get healthy.”
Buffalo (4-2-0) hosts Montreal (3-4-0) on Thursday night and Chicago (4-2-0) on Saturday night, after coming home from a 3-1-0 road trip out West.
Samuelsson signed a 7-year, $30 million contract before the season that makes him the second-highest paid defenseman on the team, and he started the opener paired with Buffalo’s top defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He also has skated with 19-year-old rookie Owen Power. Samuelsson got hurt in a collision during Buffalo’s win at Vancouver, appearing to favor his knee when leaving the ice.
“It’s gonna be a few weeks, but much better than maybe originally we thought,” Adams said. “Then we’ll kind of go from there. He’s going to be out some time, but not terrible. … It’s good and bad news. We don’t want him out a few weeks. But it’s better than the alternative.”
Jokiharju paired with Power in the opener and also has played alongside Dahlin, his partner for most of last season. Jokiharju fractured a bone below his nose during the win at Calgary, but is progressing in his recovery and could skate early next week.
Neither of the injured defensemen will need surgery, Adams said.
Jacob Bryson and Ilya Lyubushkin have replaced the injured D-men in pairing with former No. 1 overall picks Dahlin and Power. Dahlin played 26:04 of the Sabres loss in Seattle on Tuesday night, and Power was second in ice time at 24:04. The Sabres also have called up defensemen Lawrence Pilut and Kale Clague from Rochester to fill out the blue line.
With 14 healthy forwards, Rasmus Asplund will be scratched for the first time this season, Granato said, allowing Peyton Krebs to draw back in the lineup.