Matt Hackett kept his pads on and sat as his locker stall as he answered questions Wednesday afternoon.
Usually goalies take off their gear before meeting with the media. But Hackett needed anything to help ease pain in his knee.
“It’s OK. Like I said before I have to put up with the pain right now and it’s going to be sore for a while so I just have to get used to it,” he said.
Hackett is still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery last May after he tore both his ACL and MCL in an April game in Boston.
“I always want to play but with the knee and where it’s at, I have to take my rest when I can and it’s just too difficult in this league to play back-to-back,” Hackett said. “I just keep icing it.”
There’s a chance he will start for the Sabres Thursday when they host the Arizona Coyotes in First Niagara Center, but the recovery process is slow and coach Ted Nolan doesn’t want to risk further injury.
“He fought through a long recovery period,” Nolan said. “To throw him in when he’s a little bit sore would be jeopardizing that situation again. We want to make sure he’s 100 percent before we put him in.”
Nolan said the decision on the team’s starting goaltender would be made Thursday morning.
Hackett was impressive in a loss in Nashville on Saturday, making 40 saves in just his third start with the Sabres this season. But he spent the postgame in the training room tending to swelling in his knee.
“I was focused. I felt like I was seeing the puck very well,” Hackett said of his last performance. “When I’m set and seeing the puck well, I feel like that’s when I’m on top of my game.”
There’s a strong chance forward Patrick Kaleta and defenseman Zach Bogosian will be back in the Sabres lineup. Both still needed final medical clearance but practiced fully with the team on Wednesday.
“They’re real close,” Nolan said. “Both looked good. Both felt good.”
Bogosian has missed five games with a lower body injury while Kaleta has been on the injured reserve list since Feb. 15 after having knee surgery.
The odds of Kaleta being back in the lineup are high after the team assigned Tim Schaller to Rochester. The 24-year-old forward has played in 14 games for the Sabres this season with one goal and one assist.
Arizona coach Dave Tippett said that Mike Smith would get the start for the Coyotes. Smith’s numbers offer a good look at the Coyotes’ slide. In March, he has a .936 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average but is just 2-7.
Goal scoring has been the Coyotes’ trouble. That is until Tuesday night in Detroit, when they broke out with a 5-4 overtime win over the Red Wings.
Consider they had five goals in the previous five games combined and just 23 in their previous 19.
“It loosens it up a little bit in the locker room,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We’ve been struggling all season to score goals, and it’s nice to get five.”
The defenseman had two assists in the win over Detroit and is the current goal-scoring leader for the Coyotes with a career-high 20 after scoring 15 last season.
“I’ve been feeling good lately here. I’ve been able to score some goals,” Larsson said.