PHILADELPHIA — The Buffalo Sabres continued to play with a depleted lineup Sunday night but it appears that’s about to change. It will certainly help them and also stands to help the Rochester Amerks’ playoff push.
Forwards Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Drew Stafford and Torrey Mitchell sat out Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but coach Ted Nolan said all of them have a chance to return when the Detroit Red Wings visit First Niagara Center on Tuesday night.
Foligno (knee) and Stewart (ankle) skated fully Sunday morning and are closest to being ready after both being initially ruled out for the season. It was Foligno’s first time on the ice since suffering what looked like a gruesome knee injury early in Thursday’s loss in St. Louis.
“I was very shocked and quite surprised he was able to walk around,” coach Ted Nolan said of the team’s arrival here Saturday. “So to see him on the ice is very encouraging news.”
“It was pretty gross,” Foligno said of the replay of him going to the ice with the Blues’ Roman Polak. “If you had told me I was gonna be skating while I was falling, I would have told you I had no chance.
“It’s felt pretty good. After coming off it was more of a stinger and bone bruise. No ACL, MCL, meniscus. I was able to keep icing it, days off and today back on the ice.”
Foligno admitted his mind flashed the worst when the collision initially happened.
“And you’re shocked too,” he said. “You feel your knee going under you and you automatically think the worst. In that situation I didn’t know what to expect.”
Nolan said Mitchell could return Tuesday, or certainly by Thursday in New York. The return of all four players would mean Luke Adam, Johan Larsson and perhaps Nicolas Deslauriers can head to Rochester to help the Amerks’ playoff quest, which got a big boost Saturday in Toronto.
Rochester wiped out a 3-0 deficit with four third-period goals in a 4-3 win at Toronto. Tim Schaller had a natural hat trick, with the tying goal coming at 19:02 of the third period, and Phil Varone got the winner 15 seconds later.
The Amerks entered Sunday’s play seventh in the AHL’s Western Conference, with the top eight making the playoffs. They’re off until hosting Toronto on Friday.
Ever since the summer, Jake McCabe had been planning on being at the Wells Fargo Center in April. The problem is he got here a week too soon.
The Sabres defenseman was hoping to play in the NCAA Frozen Four here next weekend but top-seeded Wisconsin got upset by North Dakota. McCabe gave up his senior season, signed with the Sabres and played his third NHL game here Sunday.
There’s a big sign on the outside of the building advertising the tournament and McCabe saw it Saturday as the Sabres’ team bus drove by the arena from the airport.
“I kind of chuckled to myself and at the same time I was a little ticked off,” McCabe said. “But I’m here now so that’s good. Our whole year, our sights were set on coming to Philly for the Frozen Four and we had the team to do it.
“We had a great group. We had a 1 seed going in. We just didn’t get the job done but we still accomplished a lot of good things. I made it here but just in a little different fashion I guess.
McCabe certainly has been as good as advertised in his first two games. He was plus-1 against St. Louis and Detroit.
“He’s done a great job,” said Sabres defenseman and fellow Wisconsin alum Jamie McBain. “He’s a big strong kid. You can tell his comfort the first two games. To jump into this league and the first game is against the Blues is not an easy situation. The poise that he handled it with, it’s been a lot of fun to watch his first two games.”
“I’m getting thrown right into it, that’s for sure,” McCabe said. “These last few games will really tell me what I need to do to be here next year. I’m going to have to go home, work my butt off in the summer to stay at the level I need to be so I can be in Buffalo.”
McCabe and McBain were both bummed by their school’s heartbreaking basketball loss to Kentucky Saturday night in the Final Four. Kentucky won, 84-83, on an Aaron Harrison three-pointer in the final seconds.
“That was real tough to watch,” McCabe said. “I know a few of those guys. They played a great game. You gotta say props to Harrison for making that shot. It’s no easy feat to make that three times like he has in the tournament.
McBain felt particularly bad for longtime Badgers coach Bo Ryan, who came up one point short in his first Final Four in Division I after a legendary career in Division III.
“He’s had an impeccable resume with the exception of getting to the Final Four,” McBain said. “We were all rooting for him and for the boys to do well.”