With a couple of rental defensemen off the trade block having been moved in recent days, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams told Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News that he had received more calls in the previous two days about defenseman Erik Johnson than he had cumulatively leading up to that point. The 35-year-old has had a very limited role this year, logging just 13:48 per game, the lowest full-season average of his career while he has just three points – all goals – in 50 games. However, Johnson has 55 career appearances under his belt including a Stanley Cup title with Colorado two years ago and teams could be looking at him as a depth addition for the stretch run. With a $3.25MM price tag, Buffalo will almost certainly have to pay that down to help facilitate a trade if one comes together.
The Ottawa Senators have announced that team captain Brady Tkachuk will miss the team’s Saturday night game with an upper-body injury. This announcement came just over 20 minutes before game time. The nature of the injury isn’t clear, though Tkachuk did leave the team’s Friday night game early after colliding with Arizona Coyotes forward Liam O’Brien early in the third period. He managed roughly 19 minutes of ice time, six hits, and a +2 before exiting.
Tkachuk has been a major contributor this season, leading the team in goals with 26 and ranked third in points with 50. He’s also recorded 104 penalty minutes on the year – one of just three NHL players to cross the century mark in penalty minutes, with O’Brien leading the league in that category. Ottawa is not currently carrying an extra forward, likely meaning they’ll play Saturday down a player – which would make them eligible for an emergency call-up after the game. Rourke Chartier has served as the team’s de facto recall this season, playing in 34 NHL games and scoring three points, though he’s one of five different Belleville Senators forwards to play with Ottawa this season.
Other notes around the Division:
- Florida Panthers forward Jonah Gadjovich is expected to return when the team visits the New York Rangers on Monday, per the team’s Senior Digital Content Manager Jameson Olive. Olive describes Gadjovich’s injury as “minor”. Gadjovich also sat out of Florida’s Thursday night win over the Montreal Canadiens. He’s recorded four points, split evenly, and 90 penalty minutes in 31 games this season.
- Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson will continue to sit out of the lineup with illness, per Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News. Johnson also missed Buffalo’s Thursday night game, after being a surprise absentee from the team’s practice. He’s appeared in 50 games this season, with three goals marking his only scoring. Johnson is in the 16th season of his career, totaling 970 games and 340 points in the league.
- Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren will be a game-time decision on Saturday, per TSN’s Mark Masters. The 24-year-old defenseman took part in the team’s practice on Saturday, making progress from an undisclosed injury that’s held him out of the team’s last two games. He has 16 points in 40 games this season.
The Sabres returned center Tyson Jost and goaltender Dustin Tokarski to the AHL’s Rochester Americans on Friday, per a team statement. In doing so, Buffalo is back below the 23-player roster limit after bringing both players up on emergency loans.
Jost, 25, was recalled on Monday amidst fears of an injury to top-line winger Jeff Skinner, who departed practice with an undisclosed injury that required imaging. Skinner didn’t miss any time and played in both of the Sabres’ games this week against the Panthers and Lightning, so Jost did not play for the first time since being waived in late December.
Buffalo had Tokarski join the team in Tampa for precautionary measures while an illness was running through the group, allowing them to have a third goalie on hand in case Eric Comrie or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen became unavailable. He did not dress for last night’s overtime win, though; only veteran defenseman Erik Johnson could not dress due to illness.
Both players have struggled in the minors after previously holding full-time roles for Buffalo in recent years. Jost had just four points in 29 NHL games with a -7 rating after signing a one-year, $2MM deal to remain in Buffalo last summer, and has three goals and 13 points in 23 games for Rochester since his reassignment. While solid, it’s not the type of production the Sabres were hoping for from a player selected with the 10th overall pick in 2016.
Tokarski has settled firmly into an AHL role after making some noise as Buffalo’s backup goalie a few seasons ago. The 34-year-old Saskatchewan native has a 3.32 GAA, .892 SV%, and 7-7-3 record in 18 games for Rochester and has not seen NHL action this season.
The newest Dallas Stars defenseman, Chris Tanev, isn’t expected to slot into Dallas’ lineup immediately, per Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. Francis added that Tanev will stay in Calgary for a few days while he secures a visa. The Stars acquired Tanev from the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, sending two draft picks and defensive prospect Artem Grushnikov back to the Flames. Dallas also sent a fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the Devils retaining 50 percent of Tanev’s cap hit.
Tanev, 34, was arguably the top name on the trade market, with a long list of teams interested in adding his defensive prowess. He only has 14 points in 56 games this season, but he led active Flames defensemen in both CF% (Corsi-For Percentage) and xGF% (expected goals-for percentage), speaking to his ability to control possession and scoring opportunities. Tanev has been in the league since the 2010-11 season, when he debuted with the Vancouver Canucks, who signed him as an undrafted free agent ahead of the season. He’s played in the NHL every season since, totaling 185 points and 773 games in the league. Dallas will mark the third team of Tanev’s career, after 10 years in Vancouver and four in Calgary.
Other notes from around the league:
- New York Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is still not skating, shares Ethan Sears of the New York Post. Bortuzzo rehabbing a lower-body injury that’s earned him a place on the team’s long-term injured reserve. He hasn’t played since January 2nd, forcing the Islanders to once again test their defensive depth. Sears also shared that the Islanders are expected to recall Hudson Fasching from his AHL conditioning stint, though he won’t be immediately activated off of LTIR. Fasching has one goal in three AHL games this season.
- The NHL has fined both Buffalo Sabres head coach Don Granato and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe for unprofessional conduct directed at officials. Each coach was docked $25K. Keefe received a game misconduct for arguing with the refs about a Mitch Marner tripping call, continuing to question the refs even after Toronto had killed off the penalty. Granato received a bench penalty for arguing a Zach Benson tripping penalty, with the opposing Florida Panthers scoring the game-winning goal on the resulting five-on-three power-play. These fines follow a precedent set by the league that aims to reduce abuse of officials.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson missed the team’s Thursday morning practice with an illness, team reporter Lance Lysowski shares. Johnson was also limited to just three minutes of ice time in Buffalo’s Tuesday night loss to the Florida Panthers. His availability for the team’s Thursday night game is uncertain.
Johnson has appeared in 50 games with the Sabres, scoring three goals and setting a -5. This season marks the first time that Johnson has scored a regular season goal since the 2021-22 season, when he netted eight in Colorado, though Johnson did score once in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The former first-overall pick is sitting at 970 career NHL games, though his 1,000th will have to wait until next season, with the Sabres left with 23 games this season. Johnson’s absence will likely pull rookie Ryan Johnson back into the lineup. Ryan Johnson has appeared in 37 games this season, recording seven assists and a +1. He’s still searching for his first goal as a pro hockey player, also yet to score in the AHL, where he’s tallied four assists in nine games.
- Vegas Golden Knights star Jack Eichel has returned to full contact at practice, suggesting he’ll be ready to return soon. The team plays the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, and the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Eichel’s availability for these outings hasn’t been clarified yet. His return will be big news for Vegas, who just lost Mark Stone to a lacerated spleen. Eichel is Vegas’ last skater scoring above a point-per-game, with 19 goals and 44 points in 42 games.
It’s unclear why the Sabres added a third goalie to the roster ahead of tonight’s game against the Lightning. Tokarski has joined the team in Tampa Bay, but multiple reports from practice indicate that expected starter Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and backup Eric Comrie are both present.
Additionally, Buffalo does not have an open roster spot. They will need to remove someone from the active roster to recall Tokarski, which will likely come in the form of an injured reserve placement. Defenseman Erik Johnson is not with the team at practice this morning after playing just 3:31 against the Panthers on Tuesday, per WGR Sports Radio 550’s Paul Hamilton.
The 34-year-old Tokarski has been recalled multiple times this season after the Sabres opted to keep top prospect Devon Levi in Rochester for the rest of the year, but he hasn’t seen any NHL action. He’s struggled in the minors this year, posting a 7-7-3 record and .892 SV% behind a strong Rochester team. Levi, in contrast, has a .924 SV% in his 13 AHL showings this year.
Tokarski has mainly served as AHL depth throughout his professional career but did have time as a full-time backup in Buffalo from 2020 to 2022. He’s made 67 starts and 13 relief appearances since making his major-league debut in 2010, compiling a 23-34-12 record, 3.15 GAA, and .902 SV% with Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and Montreal.
The Sabres have brought forward Tyson Jost up from AHL Rochester after an extended minor-league stint, per a team announcement Monday. Jost’s recall comes after winger Jeff Skinner departed this morning’s practice with an undisclosed injury that required further imaging, head coach Don Granato said, putting the latter’s availability for their upcoming Florida road trip in doubt.
Buffalo initially acquired Jost, 25, off waivers from the Wild in Nov. 2022. He was good for seven goals and 22 points in 59 games after the change in scenery, the best offensive pace of his seven-year NHL career. While he was not issued a qualifying offer last June, the Sabres brought him back on a one-year, $2MM deal after briefly reaching UFA status on July 1.
Jost, the 10th overall pick in 2016 by the Avalanche, wasn’t able to recapture last year’s form, however. He put up only four points in 29 games to begin the campaign, including a -7 rating, and was waived and assigned to Rochester shortly before the New Year. His production in Rochester hasn’t been as good as hoped for, either, scoring only three times and adding 10 assists for 13 points in 23 games with a +2 rating.
If Skinner cannot play against the Panthers on Tuesday, there’s no guarantee Jost enters the lineup. Victor Olofsson is also rostered as an extra forward, and although he’s struggled with four goals and 12 points in 35 games this year, he has a higher offensive upside. He would be a better short-term replacement for Skinner in extended minutes.
The Sabres have cap space to recall Jost, but they do not have an open roster spot. If imaging determines Skinner will be out for at least seven days, they can move him to injured reserve; if not, defenseman Kale Clague will likely be returned to Rochester with Erik Johnson and Owen Power now healthy on Buffalo’s back end.
The Sabres activated defenseman Owen Power from injured reserve ahead of Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes, according to the NHL’s media portal. Power is on the ice for pregame warmups and projects to draw into the lineup, Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald reports.
Power joins 35-year-old Erik Johnson as Buffalo defenders returning from absences. Johnson missed the Sabres’ Thursday game against Columbus with an illness, while Power missed the Sabres’ last six games after sustaining a hand injury during practice on Feb. 12.
The 2021 first-overall pick had played in all 51 games before the injury, scoring twice and adding 16 assists for 18 points. He has a +3 rating and is averaging 22:28 per game, slightly down from last season’s marks that earned him third place in Calder Trophy voting behind Kraken center Matthew Beniers and Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Power will replace rookie Ryan Johnson in the lineup against Carolina and will skate on a pairing with the more experienced Johnson against Carolina, the team said. AHL call-up Kale Clague will also be scratched after playing in the Sabres’ last two games.
The 21-year-old Power is in the final season of his entry-level contract with a cap hit of $916.7K. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams signed him to a seven-year, $58.45MM extension ($8.35MM AAV) in October, keeping him in Buffalo through 2031. The Sabres had one open roster spot, so no corresponding transaction is necessary to take Power off IR.
Buffalo is 6-4-0 in their last 10 games and went 4-2-0 in Power’s absence, although they’ll need a hotter streak than that to catapult themselves back into the playoff conversation. They’re 12 points back of the Red Wings for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and have just a 4.8% chance of making the playoffs, per MoneyPuck.
Goal scoring has been an unexpected issue for the Sabres, whose offense ranks 23rd in the league. A dip in offensive production from Power in his sophomore year hasn’t helped matters, although he’s improved his shot-attempt suppression numbers significantly from his rookie year. His 52.0 CF% at even strength ranks third among Sabres defensemen behind Ryan Johnson and Rasmus Dahlin.
Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson will dress against the Hurricanes on Sunday night, head coach Don Granato said (via Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald). The 35-year-old missed Friday’s 2-1 road win in Columbus with an illness.
- Winger Victor Olofsson will also be available to the Sabres tonight after recovering from an illness that kept him home during their two-game road trip, per Heather Engel of NHL.com. However, he’s projected to serve as a healthy scratch for the 20th time this season. The 28-year-old has just four goals and 12 points in 35 games this year, both pacing out as career lows, and he’s only made five appearances since the beginning of 2024.
- Out since February 10th with an undisclosed injury, Heather Engel of the NHL is reporting that Buffalo Sabres defenseman Owen Power is close to a return, and may even be cleared to play tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. In the midst of a sophomore slump, Power is projected to finish short of his production last year without factoring in the missed games due to injury. Nevertheless, much of Power’s lack of production can be placed at the feet of his usual defensive partners Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton, both of whom have struggled immensely in their first season in Buffalo.