NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If there’s one thing Matt Hackett proved during his first two games with the Sabres, it’s that he deserves a third. He’ll get it tonight.
Coach Ted Nolan is going back to Hackett against Nashville after the goaltender shined during a win over Edmonton and a 2-0 loss to Montreal on Tuesday.
“Hackett definitely earned it,” Nolan said Wednesday in Bridgestone Arena. “That’s one thing about now, it’s audition time. When you audition and you do a couple good things in the auditions, you should get another one.
“He played well the last two games, particularly the last game in Montreal. I thought he was a difference maker. It could have been a lot worse, but he kept us in the game.”
Hackett stopped the Canadiens’ first 31 shots and finished with 33 stops. He turned aside 35 of 36 last week during a 3-1 win over the Oilers, the Sabres’ only victory in their last 10 outings.
“I try to be calm in there,” Hackett said. “I try and be positionally sound. I don’t make too many flashy saves. Like Jim Corsi says, I want to be sticky. I want to be sticky all the time and get hit in the chest. That’s how my goal is, and that’s how I want to play.”
Hackett was in command in Montreal, which meant a lot to the 24-year-old. His uncle Jeff Hackett was a goalie for the Habs from 1998 to 2003.
“It was fun to play in the building that my uncle used to play in,” the Sabres’ Hackett said. “I was pretty nervous going into it, but then I settled down and felt good. It was a special game for me, and I had a blast.”
The first five questions of Nolan’s post-practice chat dealt with injured players. Obviously, things aren’t getting much better in Sabreland.
Tyler Myers, Marcus Foligno, Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka missed the Sabres’ workout with various ailments, while goaltender Michal Neuvirth was sent back to Buffalo for further evaluation of his lower-body injury.
“Every game somebody goes down,” Nolan said. “It’s one of those things when things go bad, they go bad.”
While Foligno should be back tonight, he’s the only definite. Myers is banged up after crashing into a goal post, Konopka is out with a back injury suffered on an airplane ride and Mitchell is unlikely to play after getting hurt in Montreal.
“Mitchell, his is something that’s maybe a little more serious, but we’ll take a look at him later,” said Nolan, who added a couple of players in Rochester would be put on call if it appeared players wouldn’t be ready. “There’s a silver lining for everything. Now it gives more kids from Rochester who are playing well maybe have a chance to play up here.”
It remains unclear whether goaltender Jhonas Enroth will play during the final 10 games. He has been recuperating in Buffalo after suffering a leg injury March 16.
“We thought it was something and it wasn’t,” Nolan said. “Check another thing and it wasn’t that, either. They’re just doing evaluations, and we think it was what we originally thought it was – if that answers your question in a roundabout way.
“We think it’s just going to take a little bit longer for him to heal. I wouldn’t rule him out totally.”
The Sabres’ penalty-kill unit has gone an impressive 15 for 17 during the last five games. Rather than be excited, it is lamenting a power-play goal scored by Daniel Briere with 3:06 left Tuesday. It ruined what had been a 5-for-5 night.
“We did a good job that whole game, and then that last one we got up ice and they had a three-on-three,” said center Brian Flynn, who skated 6:04 short-handed. “It’s one of those things where you do good all game and then you give up that late one, it hurts.”