The Buffalo Sabres’ defense is already thin due to the injury to Henrik Tallinder and it took another hit Monday night as Tyler Myers was handed a three-game suspension for his head shot Saturday night against New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus.
It’s the second suspension of Myers’ career, as he also earned a three-game ban for boarding in 2012. Myers thus misses tonight’s game against Carolina, Thursday’s visit by the Florida Panthers and Sunday’s game in Washington. He is eligible to return Jan. 14 against Philadelphia.
Myers got a minor penalty for a check to the head on the play. New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer was upset Myers did not receive a major.
“I was expecting at least something just because of what penalty I got on the play,” Myers said after practice Monday, before the ruling was issued.
In a video narrated by NHL Player Safety director Patrick Burke, who works under league vice president Brendan Shanahan, Myers was cited for unnecessary head contact.
Said Burke: “Until just before impact, Myers is in position to make a legal full bodycheck on Zubrus, who is eligible to be checked. However, rather than remaining in an athletic position, and delivering a check into Zubrus’ chest or shoulder, Myers unnecessarily extends upward and drives his right shoulder into Zubrus’ jaw – when head contact such as this is completely unavoidable.”
“Anything in the head area now you’re not surprised,” said interim coach Ted Nolan. “We have to do something to get players to stop hitting in that area. It’s a dangerous hit. I’m not surprised.”
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and based on his average annual salary, Myers will forfeit $84,615.39. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. He will likely be replaced tonight by Alexander Sulzer, a scratch on Saturday.
Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth said he expects to hear today if he has been selected to Sweden’s Olympic team, likely to join Ottawa’s Robin Lehner as a backup to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
“I’m trying to not think about it too much because it will make me nervous,” said Enroth, who was in goal as Sweden won the World Championships last spring. “We’ll see what happens.”
Former Sabre forward Jiri Novotny, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2001, was named to the Czech team Monday. He is currently playing in the KHL. Novotny spent parts of four seasons in Rochester played just 64 games for Buffalo before being dealt to Washington in 2007 as part of the trade for Zubrus. He has been in the KHL since 2009.
Team Canada will announce its selections today. The Sabres don’t have any candidates, while Carolina forwards Jeff Skinner and captain Eric Staal are in the mix.
Skinner has 20 goals and 33 points in 33 games and is the NHL’s reigning First Star of the week. He is the first player since the team moved from Hartford to tally 16 goals in a 16-game span. Staal is expected to miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury.
The Hurricanes hit town on a season-high four-game winning streak and with former Sabres Andrej Sekera and Nathan Gerbe sporting good numbers.
Sekera is second on the team in assists (17) and third in points (24) while Gerbe is tied for third on the team in goals (9) and is fourth in points (20). Sekera was traded on draft day for Jamie McBain and a second-round pick (Michigan center J.T. Compher), while Gerbe was surprisingly bought out by the team last June.
Sekera already has seven goals after never scoring more than four in a season for the Sabres. His 24 points are just five off his career high, set in 76 games during the 2010-11 season. He entered Monday tied for sixth among NHL defensemen in goals and 15th in points.
Sekera is expected to represent Slovakia for the second straight Olympics. He is partnered with Justin Faulk, named to Team USA last week.
Sabres forward Ville Leino practiced fully Monday and will take the morning skate today but didn’t sound too optimistic he would play tonight.
None of the team’s other injured players are close to returning. Nolan said center Cody Hodgson was the closest, although he is still not practicing with the team.