Tampa – The injury epidemic continues to spread through the Buffalo Sabers defense and has now infected the club’s most dominant player.
The club announced 90 minutes before the match at the Amalie Arena, that Rasmus Dahlin will miss Saturday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to an upper body injury. Dahlin is listed as Day by Day and becomes the fourth member of the Buffalo blueline to suffer an injury.
Coach Don Granato refused to go into details of the injury during his pre-match media conference, but a source confirmed that it happened on Friday night in Carolina during the first period of Dahlin’s confrontation with Hurricane striker Gaspere Kotaniemi. The pair, who were drafted No. 1 and 3 in the 2018 NHL Draft, broke from the scrum pack and went briefly 1 on 1, with Kotkaniemi attached to his right hand glove to Dahlin’s face before the officials could break them over.
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Dahlin played the rest of the match seemingly unmoved and scored his seventh goal of the season with a tenth of a second left in the third half but was not available to the media after that. Al-Saber said Dahlin was in the coaches’ room for medical attention. And while it’s not at all strange for a player to make a short check-in, it’s possible that he talked about how much Dahlin was beaten up after the competition.
Sword fell to 7-4 in the opening game of their back-to-back road group.
Dahlin has seven goals and eight assists in 11 games this season while playing 25 minutes and 53 seconds per game. He played 26:58 in the 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes, collecting eight shots on target and 11 attempts while also blocking three shots. He is second in the league among defenders in points and fifth in ice time.
“It’s certainly hard not to have Rasmus clearly with what he did,” Granato said. “But you’re playing a game (against Tampa) in an incredible building against a former Stanley Cup champion and that’s exciting. I think our guys have to accept that excitement and challenge. Injuries happen. It’s a chance for us to learn more about ourselves and the specific players in different roles.”
Saber without Dahlin, Matthias Samuelsson (knee) and Henry Jukiharjo (facial fracture). Ilya Lyubushkin (lower body) is back in the Buffalo squad to replace Dahlin after sitting out the last four games.
“That’s why you’re expecting more players over the summer, for these moments,” said Granato. “Unfortunately we had a barrage of injuries specifically to the defensive group which is a bit strange but you just deal with it.”
Dahlin’s injury undoubtedly means more chances for rookie Owen Power, who leads all of the up-and-coming NHL players in ice time at 22:41 per game. Power arrived to join the Sabers in April in Tampa from the University of Michigan and took a morning ski with the team but didn’t play in the game against Lightning that night. He debuted two nights later in Toronto.
“It’s really amazing how much work he can do at such a lifetime,” Granato said of Power, who played 24:43 at Carolina. “It’s amazing. He makes very few mistakes and definitely doesn’t make the same mistake with any consistency. … He is not consumed by any great pressure. This is an indication of high talent and knowledge of the game, a sense of hockey, and awareness of situations.”