Sabres head coach Don Granato announced to reporters Wednesday that center Tage Thompson is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury, via Joe Yerdon of Bleacher Report. Granato said Thompson, who left Tuesday’s loss to the Bruins on two different occasions with separate injuries, isn’t expected to miss more than two months.
The news is deeply concerning for the Sabres, who are now without their number-one center for the foreseeable future and already face an uphill climb to make the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thompson skated just six shifts against the Bruins, sustaining an apparent foot injury early after opposing defenseman Charlie McAvoy’s skate made incidental contact with the top of his left skate boot, causing a cut. He would return later in the contest but left again after a McAvoy shot appeared to hit him in the left wrist area. The latter is the injury sidelining him long-term.
Thompson, 26, had an All-Star-caliber season for the Sabres last year. His 47 goals ranked sixth in the league, while his 94 points ranked 15th, all while posting a Corsi share of 53.6% at even strength and earning a handful of third- and fourth-place Hart Trophy votes. Most importantly, he stayed healthy – appearing in 78 out of 82 games as the Sabres missed the playoffs by just one point.
This year hasn’t been quite as smooth for Thompson, who has six goals and a -5 rating through 16 contests. After taking 295 shots on goal last season, Thompson has struggled to find the net at times, recording just four shots on goal in three games leading up to Tuesday.
With the Sabres again struggling defensively and sitting seventh in the Atlantic Division with a 7-8-1 record, the timing of Thompson’s absence is far from ideal. The team will need to make up ground quickly here after a slow start to keep their hopes of ending their NHL-record 12-year playoff drought. Missing Thompson will certainly complicate that, even if he wasn’t quite at the level we’ve seen him perform at the past two seasons.
Thompson hasn’t been placed on long-term injured reserve yet, but he’s likely eligible as missing ten days and 24 games seems realistic given Granato’s phraseology. Doing so would free up a spot on the 23-man roster, which the Sabres will need to do in the coming days to activate netminder Eric Comrie from IR, who’s nearing recovery from a lower-body injury and will travel with the team on their upcoming three-game road swing, per Granato (via Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News).
Luckily, Granato also expects winger Alex Tuch to return to the lineup from a short-term upper-body injury before Friday’s game against the Jets, meaning at least the Sabres won’t be down two pieces of their top line. In terms of a direct replacement for Thompson, look for Dylan Cozens to slide up to first-line duties alongside team goals and points leader Jeff Skinner. The 22-year-old, like Thompson, has been off to a mildly disappointing start, registering eight points through 14 contests after registering 31 goals and 68 points last year.