The injury happened on his first shift against Washington, but Henrik Tallinder didn’t think too much of it. He figured the pain in his finger was just a bone bruise and he continued playing.
In fact he played over 21 minutes in that Dec. 29 game against Washington. He even tried to practice the next day.
But eventually, Tallinder realized something was wrong, that he couldn’t just muscle his way through the situation.
That led to an X-ray that showed a broken bone, not a bruise, and had the veteran defenseman out of the Buffalo Sabres lineup for eight games.
He was back in the lineup Tuesday starting with Tyler Myers.
“I didn’t really think it was a broken bone,” Tallinder said of the injury. “I thought it was more of just a bone bruise or something like that. But you know what, reality hits a couple of hours after the game when the adrenaline is down and you realize that it’s something wrong here. Even the next day we still thought it was a bone bruise. And I practiced and didn’t feel good. Then we took an X-ray and you could see it was broken.”
Tallinder watched eight games from the press box while on injured reserve. While being out of the lineup was frustrating, it was an opportunity for him to watch the team from a different vantage point, and he noticed that his team was playing more evenly, not letting the swings of the game take it off its focus.
But defensively Tuesday night, the focus wasn’t there as the Sabres dropped a 4-3 decision to the Florida Panthers.
“I think it was more hesitation than being desperate and being there ahead of them,” Tallinder said of the problems in the defensive zone coverage. “I think that’s what it is, being anxious about not making mistakes and not jumping on the play when the play is happening.
“Desperation is one key word I think in this loss. You have to come out with desperation. When you come out with desperation you seem to be battling harder than maybe being a little bit more cautious. I think that’s something we have to work on.”
With Tallinder back in the lineup, the Sabres were carrying eight defensemen on their roster. Mark Pysyk was out to make room for Tallinder. Interim coach Ted Nolan made sure to note it had nothing to do with Pysyk’s play. The scratch, rather, was purely a factor of numbers and age.
“It’s not his play. He’s been playing pretty well lately,” Nolan said. “It’s just he’s younger and it’s a lot of games. There’s a possibility he may go down to the farm team to play during the break. That’s a lot of games for a young guy to play so it’s more of just a precautionary day and a rest day.”
Nolan indicated that Pysyk and fellow defenseman Brayden McNabb could be assigned to the Rochester Americans when the NHL goes on a 17-day Olympic break. But he said they would be making that decision in the next few days and did not commit to the move.
Linus Omark returned to the lineup Tuesday after sitting the last two games as a healthy scratch.
It was his 10th game with the Sabres since he was acquired in a trade with Edmonton. In his first nine games, he had only three shots on goal, something Nolan would like to see change, which is part of the reason he put him on a line with Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson to start the game.
“We’ve just got to transform his game,” Nolan said. “If you watch some of our practices, he’s pretty skilled. He has great vision for the ice. He knows where to go. He has moves. He has everything. But in the games it just doesn’t translate into games. We’ve just got to get him a little more gritty and maybe playing with a guy like Steve Ott that will bring that side of it, going to the net and shooting the puck.”
Omark picked up the second assist on Drew Stafford’s first period power-play goal Tuesday but was on the ice for two of Florida’s goals in that period which caused Nolan to move him off that second line.
Omark played little in the second but picked up time at the point on the power play as the Sabres battled to get back in the game.
“It wasn’t so much being on the ice for the two goals, it’s your play while you’re on the ice for the two goals,” Nolan said. “Sometimes you can’t blame one person for a goal but you certainly can look at their effort. He got knocked off the puck pretty easy on the sidewall. He flew by one player. And he wasn’t the only one tonight. We didn’t stop and start in our defensive zone and that’s what happens.”
“You’ve got to play all the time and that’s the theme of our team right now,” Nolan said. “Sometimes we’re really, really good and then sometimes it’s what happened to us at the end of the first period when they scored two quick ones. It’s one of those things where we have to play a more consistent game from start to finish.”
Ott scored on the power play in the third period, giving him 100 career goals.
“Anytime you hit a milestone, an individual milestone in a team game, it’s exciting,” Ott said. “If I was a kid and you asked me if I’d ever score 100 goals in the NHL, I would have taken it and been pretty proud. It would have been nicer to have that in a winning situation.”
Hello one-goal games. The Sabres have now played seven straight one-goal games going 2-2-3 in those games. It also marks the seventh game at home that the Sabres have played a one-goal game, going 3-2-2 in those games at First Niagara Center. It’s only the third time in franchise history they have played seven straight home games decided by a single goal or ended in a tie. The other times were from Nov. 28 to Dec. 26, 1986 (4-2-1) and from Feb. 17 to March 14, 1974 (3-2-2).
With two goals in the first period, Stafford recorded his first multi-goal game since March 13, 2013 against Ottawa. ... Tyler Ennis extended his point streak to five games with an assist on Stafford’s second goal. Ennis has two goals and four assists in the last five games. ... Florida rookie center Aleksander Barkov left the game at the end of the first period with a lower body injury and did not return. He has 23 points for the Panthers and was named to the Finnish national team for the Olympics.