The referees didn’t see anything wrong with Jason Akeson’s big hit Wednesday. The NHL might.
NHL Player Safety has scheduled a Friday hearing with the Sabres forward to discuss a check that injured Ottawa’s Colin Greening. Akeson caught Greening with his head down during their preseason game Wednesday, and the league will weigh if the hit fell under “charging/illegal check to the head.”
Akeson had the Senators seeing red after he dropped the puck-carrying Greening midway through the third period. Akeson lunged into Greening’s upper body, and the woozy Ottawa forward needed to be helped to the dressing room. Sens center Travis Ewanyk instigated a fight with Akeson, who was penalized only for the pugilism.
Buffalo signed Akeson to a one-year deal this summer. The 25-year-old spent his first four seasons in the Flyers’ organization, playing 15 games with Philadelphia. The Ontario Hockey League named Akeson its Most Sportsmanlike Player in 2011.
The Sabres will carry a short-handed hot streak into Friday’s preseason game in Toronto. Buffalo has scored with a man in the box during each of its two exhibitions. Jack Eichel scored Monday in Minnesota, while Evander Kane found the net Wednesday.
Having stars on the ice during the penalty kill is something new for Dan Bylsma. During the coach’s final four seasons in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby’s short-handed ice time was about 30 seconds per game while Evgeni Malkin’s average was two seconds.
It remains to be seen if the early success will lead Bylsma to change his penalty-killing philosophy.
“It really happened by circumstance in the first game,” the coach said Thursday. “I had plans of possibly using Jack in the last 15, 20 seconds of the penalty kill, and we needed a right-shot draw. We weren’t winning the draws with the guys that we had, so we used Jack for the draw. He won the draw and it turned into a short-handed situation.
“Right now we’re probably auditioning eight to 10 guys for penalty-killing roles, and Evander’s got that opportunity. You can see when he is in the open ice, his speed and skill take over there.”
The Sabres’ young players have two more games to prove themselves until the team really gets down to business. The Sabres, who also play Saturday in Ottawa, will still use lineups split between prospects and veterans during the back-to-back games.
“It’s still a bit of a split squad for these next two, and the last three in the last part of our training camp will be the actual squad,” Bylsma said in HarborCenter.
The Sabres will play seven exhibition games. They have two left in First Niagara Center, with Toronto coming to town Tuesday and Columbus visiting next Friday. Four of the five remaining games will feature 60-minute outings by goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian will not play this weekend because of a lower-body injury. Patrick Kaleta also has a lower-body injury, but Bylsma hopes Kaleta will be able to dress. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains out with an upper-body injury.
“He is able to get on the ice and do some conditioning,” Bylsma said. “He’s still another probably five days away from getting in a game and practice.”
Goalie prospect Linus Ullmark, who had surgery on both hips during the offseason, has begun on-ice activities. He’s been working with goalie coach Andrew Allen.
“He’s been doing really well in his sessions with Andrew,” Bylsma said. “Hopefully, we’ll see him progress to full time in practice.”