Josh Gorges took a full practice on Tuesday at First Niagara Center.
That wasn’t what coach Ted Nolan was expecting.
“We thought he was just going to come out to take a couple shots, but he went a lot longer,” Nolan said. “Time frame? You never know with him. It could be sooner rather than later.”
Gorges injured his knee in St. Louis on Nov. 11. The veteran defenseman has missed four games and was expected to be out weeks. But Gorges is feeling better and pushing to return to the lineup.
He doesn’t exactly know yet the timetable for his return. “Obviously I’m pushing to be back as soon as possible, and I’m hoping this weekend for a bunch of different reasons, but right now it’s a day at a time,” Gorges said. “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, and we’ll go for the next day. I’m ahead of schedule, but I’m not there yet.”
The Sabres host Winnipeg tonight, but the games Gorges really wants to return for are Friday and Saturday when the Sabres have a home-and-home series with the Montreal Canadiens – Gorges’ former team.
“As a player and as a competitor, you want to be out there,” Gorges said. “There’s nothing worse than sitting on the sidelines watching your team … to be able to out there and be back in practice and do some drills and just be out there with the guys was encouraging for myself.
“You know it was my first day back. Obviously there still some things I need to improve and get better, but for the most part it was good. That’s all on our trainers. I wouldn’t be there today if it wasn’t for them.”
Gorges is close to returning, but center Cody McCormick remains sidelined as he undergoes concussion protocol.
“He said he feels good, but there’s protocol that you have to go through,” Nolan said. “We’ll let the medical team figure that out. Hopefully soon.”
In the meantime, the Sabres need another center. But after practice on Tuesday, Nolan indicated there likely would not be a player recalled from Rochester and that Patrick Kaleta would get a turn in the middle.
“We’re going to keep the status quo right now,” Nolan said. “We practiced Kaleta at center ice. He’s been waiting to get in, so we’ll see how that works.
“One thing, he’s eager to play. He likes to track people. He wants to get in and contribute, so we’ll play him there, work him in. Not for defensive zone faceoffs and so forth, but for an energy guy that’s exactly what we need.”
Nolan also said it was likely some centers, like Zemgus Girgensons and Cody Hodgson, could take some double shifts.
Cody Hodgson was one of the last players off the ice.
That’s relatively new.
Hodgson is still looking to find his offensive touch and his niche in the Sabres system.
The 24-year-old has just two points in 21 games this season and no points in his last five. During the Sabres winning streak he has four shots on goal and two penalty minutes.
But his ice time, which dwindled to just under eight minutes against Minnesota on Nov. 13 has increased the last three games, in part because Nolan is seeing extra effort from Hodgson in practice. Hodgson is also working off-ice with assistant coach Bryan Trottier.
“No question he’s working on his craft now,” Nolan said. “He’s staying out later after practice. He’s still working with Bryan in the video room. … He’s getting himself in better position to break himself away from defenders. I really believe he’s just on the brink of breaking out.“