BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres stumbled on the verge of entering the All-Star break in playoff position. And shooting star Tage Thompson’s status for the NHL’s showcase event is uncertain after he was unable to finish Wednesday night’s game due to an upper-body injury.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin will be replacing Thompson at the All-Star Game in Florida.

Snapping a six-game point streak with a 5-1 home loss against the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, the Sabres still boast their 50-game record (26-20-4) in 12 seasons. That’s good for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point back in the race to end their NHL-record postseason drought.

“I’m proud of our group in here, but we can’t be content,” said Alex Tuch, who scored the Sabres’ lone goal, his 24th of the season. “We’re 50 games down and 32 to go, and each and every one matters from here on out. Take some time off, step away from hockey a little bit for the break and get regenerated.”

“We’ve earned the position we’re in and we know we’re in it,” Dahlin said after Wednesday’s game. “We had a long stretch now with a lot of games so it’s good to get some break and push harder when we get back. We’ve got something good going on so we can’t really be too worried about this game. We’ve got to move on and play some better hockey.”

Coach Don Granato said the Sabres will “look in the mirror” after losing by four goals for just the second time this season, and return from a 10-day layoff determined to finish strong. Buffalo hosts Calgary on Feb. 11 before going on a three-game road trip out west.

“I know they are leaving here wanting to have a better, whatever we have left, 30 games or whatever, or 40% of the season,” Granato said. “They want to have a better final 40% than they did the first part of the season. There is no question in my mind they are all processing that way as we enter this break.”

Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for January, stopped 29 of 33 shots in dropping to 13-6-2 as a starter.

The Hurricanes, playing their third game in four nights, completely dominated the Sabres out of the gates, taking control of the game and jumping out to an early 3-0 lead.

“Never got in a rhythm and obviously we played a very good hockey team and a capable hockey team,” Granato said. “It didn’t matter who we played tonight. That result was going to be not a favorable one for lots of the reasons that were well within our control.”

Tuch got the Sabres on the board with 5:15 left in the first on a wrist shot from the right circle. It was his 24th goal of the season.

“They came at us with a lot of energy,” Tuch said. “They kept it simple, they were flipping pucks out, keeping us on our heels. We weren’t able to sustain their pressure and we collapsed early on. When you go down 3-0 against a team like that, it’s going to be impossible to come back, honestly. We dug ourselves a hole, didn’t get out of it.”

Things went from bad to worse late in the second period, when Thompson went to the dressing room and did not return to the bench for the third period. Thompson, who has 34 goals and 68 points this season, had been trying to play through injury in recent days and missed practice on Monday.

“No updates,” Granato said after the game. “I’ll get more. We were in talking. The medical team was doing their thing. I have not met with the medical team. That usually doesn’t happen for at least quite a while after the game actually.”

Sabres forward Jeff Skinner played in his 900th career game. He’s the 63rd active NHL player to play in 900 or more games. Skinner originally entered the league with Carolina after being chosen seventh overall by the Hurricanes in 2010.

Stefan Noesen, Sebastian Aho, Brent Burns, Derek Stepan and Jordan Martinook scored for Carolina, winners of seven in a row. Antti Raanta made 29 saves.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.