Everything is happening all at once in Buffalo. The team has been waiting to re-activate several injured players for more than a week now, yet at the same time they have been waiting all day for COVID-19 test results after multiple initial positives earlier. Just ahead of their game tonight against the Arizona Coyotes, the team has now announced it all in a flurry of moves that will re-shape the roster, at least for the time being.
Though less anticipated, the COVID Protocol absences are unfortunately the bigger part of the Sabres’ roster news. The team has placed defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and forwards Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund in the protocol. Assistant coach Matt Ellis was also named as one of five additional members of Buffalo’s traveling party who will be sidelined due to COVID. These three players in particular are obviously a major loss for the Sabres. Dahlin, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, has taken that next step in his development this season and has been Buffalo’s best player. He leads the team with 28 points and 23:51 average time on ice and ranks in the top five in goals, hits, blocked shots, and takeaways. No loss could impact the Sabres’ more. With that said, Olofsson and Asplund are also major absences. The former is having a down year, but still in the top five in scoring and plays a critical role on the power play. The latter has already surpassed his career marks in games played and points and is one of the better possession players on the team. For the Sabres’ sake, hopefully the trio are only out short-term as they play such meaningful roles and the club is already missing a laundry list of players due to injury.
That list has shrunk today though. With no options left in net following Michael Houser landing on COVID Protocol yesterday, Aaron Dell suspended and waived, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Malcolm Subban on injured reserve, the Sabres finally activated Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski just in time for their game. Anderson had been out since early November with an upper-body injury but has been working his way back in recent weeks, while Tokarski has been out since early December. Anderson was playing very well prior to his injury, especially for someone who was set to retire this past off-season, so the Sabres will be hoping he can return to form. They also have regained the services of veteran forward Kyle Okposo, who’s having a resurgent season. Okposo has missed the past week, but is still fourth in scoring with 23 points in 37 games. The team can certainly use that offense with Olofsson and Asplund sidelined.
Additionally, Buffalo has also recalled defenseman Casey Fitzgerald from the taxi squad. Fitzgerald has played in four NHL games this year, with one point on the scoreboard, but has nine points in 27 games with the AHL’s Rochester Americans.