The newest addition to the Buffalo Sabres’ roster will take the ice tonight when the team faces the Boston Bruins in the second half of a home-and-home series.
Linus Omark, 26, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional sixth-round draft pick, met the team in Boston and interim coach Ted Nolan said he would be in the lineup for tonight’s 7 p.m. faceoff.
“I’m not 100 percent sure where we’ll put him yet but he’ll play tomorrow night,” Nolan said after the team practiced Friday morning at First Niagara Center.
Omark spent all but one game this season with the American Hockey League team in Oklahoma City. He ranks fourth in the AHL with 14 goals and 29 points in 29 games. In 66 NHL games with Edmonton over three seasons he had eight goals and 22 assists.
“Edmonton had a lot of players similar to Linus’ skill set and ability,” his agent, Kevin Epp, said Friday afternoon. “Others were drafted higher or came in with more credentials or more clout. There were a lot of players similar to him in that organization. I’d say early on it started as a good opportunity but other young players came into their own and there wasn’t that opportunity for a future there.”
But Epp sees a future for Omark with the Sabres.
“Buffalo is in a new stage of their franchise rebuilding,” Epp said. “They have a lot of draft picks and lot of young guys and Linus fits into that really well. He’s a young player and offensive player with real good potential to play.”
While Nolan wasn’t sure where Omark would slide into the lineup, there certainly is room.
Cody Hodgson is out with an upper body injury after a blocked shot went off his wrist late in the first period Thursday. Nolan was unsure how long Hodgson would be out.
“I’m not too sure, maybe a week or two or three,” Nolan said.
Add to that Cody McCormick, who is out for four to six weeks with a lower body injury, and there’s room for another forward.
Brian Flynn’s short-handed goal may have been a random act of beauty, but the Sabres’ penalty-killing unit has been steady and solid for the last five games.
The Sabres have killed off opponents’ last 14 power plays. The last time the unit gave up a power-play goal was Dec. 5 to the New York Rangers.
“We realize that we were struggling to score goals so we had to be better on the penalty kill,” Flynn said. “We can’t give up a power play goal. We were starting a goal behind every night and scoring one or two goals – you can’t win games like that. We knew we had to pick it up a little bit and we’ve been doing a good job and our goalies obviously have been making some big saves too.”
And then there’s the gritty play that defenses are built on, which unfortunately may also contribute to injuries in the lineup.
“We’re getting in front,” Nolan said. “Maybe that’s why we have a couple guys hurt. They’re starting to get in front of shots and it hurts a little bit. They’re starting to pay the price and getting in those shot lanes, using their sticks much better and competing harder.”
Sabres prospect J.T. Compher was cut from the United States National Junior team roster and will not participate in the IIHF World Juniors Championship in Sweden.
Compher, a forward at the University of Michigan, suffered a left foot injury in practice on Monday while blocking a shot. He was in a walking boot on Tuesday.
U.S. coach Don Lucia said the injury is what kept Compher off the team but with his birth year as 1995 he will have another opportunity.
“The disappointment is in Compher getting hurt; he could have played a lot of different roles on this team,” Lucia said. “It would have been a good bet that he probably would have made this team, but now it gives someone else an opportunity.”
Fans have three chances to take part in The Good Neighbor Skate Drop Off that collects unwanted ice skates, regardless of condition or size, to be refurbished for use at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park ice skating program.
Dropoffs will be:
Dec. 27 from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at the BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York Headquarters (corner of West Genesee and 7th Street).
Dec. 28 from 1-5 p.m. at Pure Hockey (3265 Sheridan Drive in Amherst).
Dec. 29 from 3-5 p.m. at First Niagara Center.
Fans will be able to meet Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons at Pure Hockey from 4-5 p.m. on Dec. 28.
For more information, call 887-8951 or visit www.facebook.com/BCBSofWNY.