Just over 11 months after a serious knee injury derailed his career, Matt Hackett returns to TD Garden in Boston to exorcise some personal demons.
Hackett is expected to get the start in goal for the Sabres for Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, Radio 550 AM). It was in the same building on April 12, 2014 that Hackett suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a goalmouth collision that included former Buffalo defenseman Jamie McBain.
“It would be fun,” Hackett said prior to Monday’s game against Washington, before coach Ted Nolan confirmed the assignment. “I would treat it like another game. Obviously it wasn’t a whole lot of fun the last game there but I like to play. I’d like to get that call.”
“When you get bucked off that certain horse, it’s nice to jump right back on where the horse bucked you off,” Nolan said. “It was just one of those freaky things that happened. We know Boston is a tough place to play no matter what. Hopefully he’ll have a good result this time.”
Hackett was out nearly eight months and has spent most of the season in Rochester (7-4-3, 2.72 goals-against average, .907 save percentage). He has played two up-and-down games for the Sabres.
Hackett was strong while giving up four goals in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver on Jan. 30 that was capped by an empty-netter but was pulled after giving up four goals in 33 minutes in a 6-1 loss March 7 at Washington. That leaves him with a 5.22 goals-against average and .867 save percentage in Buffalo thus far.
Still, this is about far more than numbers. Hackett admitted Monday the injury frightened him when he began to ponder his long-term future.
“It’s almost a year and I’m feeling almost back to normal now,” he said. “Sometimes you get a little bit sore but I’m really happy to be back in the league. An injury like that, you’re never sure what’s going to happen, you’re never sure what way your career is going to go. As a goalie, you’re up and down so much on your knees. That’s a pretty tough injury to go through but I’m happy with the work I’ve done and I’ve worked hard to compete.”
According to French-language TVA Sports, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray has told his counterparts at the league’s spring GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., that he’s willing to trade his second first-round pick this year in the right deal.
That’s consistent to what Murray told Buffalo reporters on trade deadline day: One first-round pick was sent to Winnipeg for Evander Kane, and the other could be in play as well, perhaps for a goaltender Murray sees as a potential starter next season.
Murray was on hand for a dinner Monday night to honor his uncle, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray. The elder Murray, now 72, is battling Stage 4 colon cancer. A different GM is honored each year but rarely is the honoree a sitting executive.
An exception is being made for Bryan Murray. Tim Murray told the Canadian Press he did not plan on speaking at the dinner.
“No, I would not be able to do it,” he said. “Frankly, one Murray crying in there will be enough.”
Defenseman Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros both sat out and Nolan said they were going to need further re-evaluation of their injuries. He expected they will both miss a few more games. Bogosian has a lower-body injury and Meszaros has a nagging hand problem.
Chad Ruhwedel came up from Rochester to make his season debut in a Buffalo uniform after playing 28 games for Buffalo over the last two seasons. He has eight goals, 23 assists and a plus-1 rating in 59 games for Rochester this year.
Ruhwedel, who played Monday with Nikita Zadorov, admitted it was frustrating to spend the entire season in the AHL but understood the Sabres had him on a development path along with fellow bluelines Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the organization and you just try to play the best you can every time you’re there,” Ruhwedel said before the game. “But it’s really more important for the team to have success because everyone gets noticed and that’s been disappointing that we haven’t.”
Ruhwedel gave plenty of plaudits to Amerks captain Drew Bagnall, who has played only two NHL games in his career with Minnesota in 2011 but has played nearly 500 games in the AHL.
“I learned a lot. I’ve been with him two years now and he’s one of the better captains I’ve had,” Ruhwedel said of Bagnall, 31. “He’s vocal. He’ll tell you when you can be better but he’ll also blow your tires when you’re playing well. He’s definitely helped a lot of guys grow down there and it’s really starting to show.”
Ruhwedel, who grew up in San Diego, was signed as a college free agent out of Mass.-Lowell following his school’s run to the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four. He played in the memorable Sabres game in Boston two days following the Marathon bombings that spring and will get another chance there Tuesday.
“It’s weird how Boston comes around,” Ruhwedel said of his callups. “I tend to get to play there which is always cool for me.”
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