Sabres’ goalie depth might improve for matchup with Coyotes

To say the Buffalo Sabres have been hit hard at the goaltender would be an understatement. However, there could be some good news on that front when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Sixth-string goalie Michael Houser was placed in NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday, leaving the Sabres without any available netminders on an NHL contract after Aaron Dell was suspended three games for interference on Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson.

Houser was expected to start at least one of the next two games, as the Sabres visit the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday following the game at Arizona.

However, a glimmer of hope emerged as Craig Anderson appears close to a return. The veteran goalie, who has been out since early November with an upper-body injury, has been a full participant since returning to practice on Jan. 21 and has progressed each day.

Dustin Tokarski could also be back from a lengthy absence caused by the effects of COVID-19. Tokarski returned to practice Thursday for the first time since Jan. 16. He had practiced with the team for several weeks before recently being sidelined again.

Ultimately, the final decision will be up to each goalie.

“With both Tokarski and Anderson, they’re in the same situation of the medical team will clear them to go when they feel that they’re comfortable with what they’ve gone through from the component of injury and recovery,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “So the hope is, yes, that they both feel comfortable, more comfortable after going through the last two days of pretty good practice intensity that they’re where they need to be.”

The Sabres head to Arizona looking to get back on track after a poor showing in a 5-0 road loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

“It’s all about respecting the game, because if you take it lightly and you don’t respect the details of the game, you’re subject to losing,” Granato said. “We didn’t respect the details that needed to be done in a game (against Ottawa) … and we need to get back to that.”

The Coyotes will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak after falling 2-1 to the visiting Boston Bruins on Friday. Arizona, which has been outscored 19-7 during the slide, has lost six of its past eight games, going 2-5-1 during that stretch.

Despite the skid, Arizona coach Andre Tourigny liked what he saw from his squad against the Bruins.

“I think we played really well,” he said. “We had grade-A scoring chances, an open net where we could have easily at least tied the game. I liked the effort, I liked the urgency and I think we played well.”

Nick Schmaltz has been finding a bit of an offensive groove of late, collecting eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past six games. Three of his goals have come in the past two games, including the Coyotes’ lone goal against Boston.

Goalie Karel Vejmelka is expected to get the start on Saturday after Scott Wedgewood faced the Bruins. Vejmelka made his NHL debut in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres in October, stopping 32 of 33 shots.

The Coyotes are 2-6-0 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season.

–Field Level Media