While the Philadelphia Flyers collectively are getting healthy, the injuries appear to be piling up for the Buffalo Sabres.
Looking again to win back-to-back games for the first time in February, the visiting Flyers can also hand the Sabres a fifth consecutive home defeat on Saturday afternoon.
COVID-19 issues have played a significant part in Philadelphia’s 2-2-2 record this month. However, captain Claude Giroux returned from his two-game COVID-related absence to record three assists while James van Riemsdyk scored his team-leading ninth goal in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.
Jakub Voracek (three goals, nine assists), who missed the last three games while on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, could return this weekend for the Saturday and Sunday games at Buffalo.
Defenseman Justin Braun might also be ready to return from the COVID list, while key forwards Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny could hit the ice soon.
“Getting Giroux back (Wednesday night) was big,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “When you are missing guys like him and Jake (Voracek), it feels weird in the locker room. … It’ll be big to get our other guys back.”
Voracek had a goal while Philadelphia split back-to-back home games versus Buffalo on Jan. 18-19. Elliott (4-1-0, 2.38 goals-against average) stopped 40 shots in the 3-0 win over the Sabres on Jan. 19, one night after he allowed two goals in relief of Carter Hart. Hart yielded four on 22 shots in a 6-1 loss to Buffalo.
Elliott has a 1.26 GAA and .962 save percentage while winning three of his last four starts against the Sabres. Hart, meanwhile, is 1-1-2 with a 4.28 GAA this month.
Linus Ullmark (2.44 GAA this season) started Buffalo’s last five games, but he will miss at least the next two games after he left with a lower-body injury following the first period of Thursday’s 4-3 overtime home loss to New Jersey. The Sabres also played without star captain Jack Eichel (two goals, 12 assists), who is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury of his own.
Both were added to the injury list for Buffalo, which is also dealing with health issues to key contributors Tobias Rieder (undisclosed) and defensemen Jake McCabe (knee) and Rasmus Ristolainen (COVID-19).
“Being honest with you, it stings the same when it’s done,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said about his team’s health after showing resilience to earn a point Thursday.
“We need to assess our situation pretty quickly and move towards the weekend.”
Sam Reinhart remains healthy for the Sabres while recording five goals and five assists in his last eight games. He scored twice at Philadelphia on Jan. 18 — his only points over a five-game stretch against the Flyers.
Carter Hutton, who stopped 21 of 25 shots in replacing Ullmark on Thursday, saved 40 of 42 he faced while starting both games against the Flyers last month. Buffalo, though, has allowed 15 goals during its current 0-3-1 home slide.
van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers with 22 points and has four goals in five games. However, he failed to earn a point in the previous two meetings against the Sabres.
–Field Level Media