There’s a debate whether the NHL should interrupt its season to go to the Olympics, but there’s no question the two-week pause helped key members of the Buffalo Sabres.
Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers were among the 18 players who practiced Friday as the Sabres ended their hiatus. Moulson missed four games prior to the break with an injury to his rib area, while Myers skipped the final two with a leg ailment.
They are expected to join center Cody McCormick, who’s been out since mid-December with a finger injury, in the lineup Tuesday when Buffalo hosts Carolina.
“They’re all feeling good, which is great,” coach Ted Nolan said in First Niagara Center. “One good thing about the Olympics is it gave all the guys that got injured time to heal.”
The biggest news is the return of Moulson. The goal-scoring winger is a pending unrestricted free agent and one of the Sabres’ biggest assets heading toward the March 5 trade deadline.
“I feel pretty good,” said Moulson, who was hurt Jan. 30 in Phoenix on a hit along the boards. “It was just kind of like a cartilage thing, probably the same as a broken rib, and it just takes time and rest. Luckily, it came right before the break so I didn’t miss too many games.”
Myers was hurt Feb. 3.
“I’m ready to go again,” the defenseman said. “It’s nice to kind of regroup mentally with how busy our schedule was going into the break, and I think it was needed with how busy it’s going to be after the break, too.”
Goaltenders Ryan Miller (United States) and Jhonas Enroth (Sweden) are still in Sochi for the medal round, so the Sabres needed netminders. They borrowed Canisius College sophomore Adam Harris and Morrisville senior Chris Azzano.
“My coach called me two nights ago,” Harris said. “He asked if I wanted to do it, and obviously I jumped at the opportunity. It helps me a lot in hockey. I’m facing these shooters, obviously the best in the world, and then I go back to college and I should hopefully get an edge on the shooters at that level.”
The fill-ins will practice with the Sabres through the weekend.
“As soon as the other guys get back then I’m back to the real world,” Harris said.
The real world awaits Miller and Enroth, too. They may not get back from Russia until Monday night, and the Sabres host the Hurricanes on Tuesday.
“One of them is going to have to play for sure,” Nolan said. “We’ll see which one had the best sleep on the plane coming home. Whichever one, he’ll play.”
Moulson has watched the Olympic hockey tournament with interest and sides firmly with those who say the NHL should continue to send its players to the games. He takes the viewpoint despite being great friends with John Tavares, the New York Islanders captain who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sochi.
“It’s tough to shut down a business for two weeks, but when you get a chance to put on one of the best hockey tournaments you can put on, people are going to want to go there,” Moulson said. “Everyone wants to be there or there wouldn’t be so much debate. You see before they pick the teams people are getting upset if their guy didn’t make it.
“I think if you ask anyone if they have a chance to represent their country, obviously they’re going to do it.”
Nolan, who coached Latvia, also backs NHL participation.
“It’s worth it,” Nolan said. “You can get hurt walking across the street slipping on a piece of ice. Those things happen. To say it’s one of those events where you don’t want to take a chance, I think it’s worth every chance there is. It’s a world-class event to showcase our game.”