Patrick Kaleta of the Sabres will miss Friday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and possibly Saturday's against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a stiff neck as the result of a shot to the head from the Ottawa Senators Jarko Ruutu Wednesday night.
The NHL fined Ruutu and undisclosed amount but did not suspend him, and Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff - unlike his players - was measured in his response.
"I think that … you look at all those situations … I don't think that they felt there was an injury on the play or that it was a deliberate blow to the head but I do think those are the ones - where somebody's head goes into the glass - that you have to look at," Ruff said after the Sabres morning skate at HSBC Arena. "I know they're tough but, we've lost a player now for the remainder of that game and possibly again [Friday]on a hit that we feel should be looked at. But, you know, those are tough calls."
Kaleta was suffering from blurred vision the day after the hit. Ruutu has a history with the Sabres - biting the finger of Andrew Peters in one altercation, then enraging Adam Mair so much last year that Mair tried to get at Ruutu in the hallway between the dressing rooms.
Sabres dominate recent showdowns
The Sabres have won seven consecutive games against the Maple Leafs, but Ruff's still going with No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller Friday night, saving Patrick Lalime for Saturday's game against the Penguins.
Gaustad back in action
Paul Gaustad will be back in the Sabres lineup after missing 10 games with a knee injury. Gaustad is considered by some observers to be on the bubble for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, so it's a neat coincidence that his return to the lineup comes against the Leafs, coached by U.S. Olympic coach Ron Wilson and generally managed by U.S. Olympic G.M. Brian Burke.
Ryan Miller, who will be the U.S. goaltender, is prepared to lobby for his teammates inclusion. "But since we play in the same division as the Leafs, I think Ron and Brian both have seen enough of him to know what he gives you," said Miller.
"He's one of those players who you know what you're going to get every shift. He communicates with guys on the ice, and for us at least it seems that when he's out there doing that everybody else picks up on it, too."
Gaustad's ability in the face-off circle is of special interest to Miller.
"I'm sure Brian Burke's aware that that's one of the things he does best," said Miller.
The Sabres were third in the league in face-off percentage when Gaustad went down with his injury. They have won 42.8 per-cent of the faceoffs in the 10 games he missed.
Tyler Myers has been following the sophomore travails of former junior teammate Luke Schenn. The Leafs did not have a morning skate yesterday, so Myers said he would wait until after the game to try to chat with Schenn.
Schenn is expected to be in the Leafs lineup tonight after missing three games as a healthy scratch,
"I've been watching him a little bit, both this year and last year," said Myers, who logged a career-high 28 minutes and 32 seconds in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Senators despite being one of seven Sabres suffering from food poisoning. Myers leads NHL rookies in both time on ice (22:46) and blocked shots (53) and is sixth in rookie scoring with 18 points.
The Sabres traded up to pick Myers 12th in the 2008 draft, selecting him seven places after Schenn. Schenn spent last year with the Maple Leafs.
"It just shows me how important it is to come and play every night," Myers said.
Ruff and Myers both credit Henrik Tallinder, Myers' defence partner, with helping acclimate the rookie to the NHL. Ruff says that a particular strength of Tallinder is his awareness of when it's OK to hang on to the puck and when it's, um, better to get rid of it. He explained:
"That pair has really grown together and played well off each other," said Ruff. "But there have been situations where instead of throwing the puck off the glass and going to the other teams defenceman he's been able to hang on to it and take the hit from certain types of players.
"Part of that is an awareness of who you're playing against, too. If it's, let's use (Milan) Lucic as an example, well, I don't think you want to take the hit. That's where you have to play that situation smaller. But if it's a smaller skilled forward in this league, that's where you need to recognize 'I'm probably not going to get hit.'"