For the fourth time in five preseason games, Brendan Guhle took a turn on the Buffalo Sabres’ defense Tuesday night with a clear eye on a surprising run at the opening night roster.
But the 18-year-old didn’t finish the game as he was knocked woozy by Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf with what appeared to be a clean open-ice hit in the second period. And the Sabres’ defense corps is now dangerously thin.
Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges are both listed as week to week while Chad Ruhwedel and Jake McCabe are nursing more minor ailments. Free-agent signee Bobby Sanguinetti, ticketed for Rochester, has not skated with the team since the first day of camp. Guhle was almost certainly going to play again in Thursday’s game at Minnesota. Now, that seems unlikely.
“It wasn’t prudent to put him back on the ice, we didn’t need to put him back on the ice so we didn’t,” coach Dan Bylsma said of Guhle after Buffalo’s 4-0 win. “It dawned on me that we now probably have to find another one for game six. I don’t want to speculate where Brendan is at. It was precautionary for sure.”
“Your approach has to be one game at a time because I’m still pretty new to this league,” Guhle, Buffalo’s second-round pick, said before the game. “You have to be simple. Just think about tonight and not get too far ahead of yourself.”
Being new to the league, however, made Guhle a target too. Replays showed Phaneuf clearly left his feet when attempting to hit Guhle, who had his head slightly down when skating with the puck. Phaneuf hit Guhle in the shoulder/collarbone area, and not in the head.
Guhle went down with a whiplash effect on his neck before getting back up and moving slowly to the Buffalo bench, then heading to the locker room.
“When he looked at the ice, he did not see the possibility of a hit and it came on him pretty quickly,” Bylsma said. “He didn’t anticipate that it was a possibility. He took his hand off his stick, started to skate and before he knew it Phaneuf had moved quickly into a position to hit him. It definitely should be a learning experience.”
Guhle was paired with Mike Weber in the game against a pretty representative Toronto lineup that included veteran forwards James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Michael Grabner and top prospect William Nylander.
Guhle entered the game with two assists and an even rating. He could conceivably play nine games in the NHL regular season before being sent back to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League without his entry-level deal kicking in. As a junior-eligible player, Guhle can’t be sent to Rochester.
Bylsma said he’s hopeful that Patrick Kaleta could return to practice with the Sabres on Wednesday morning. He has been skating on his own for a week after suffering an injury early in camp.
The Sabres open the season with three home games in a five-day stretch and have announced several family-friendly events around the trio of games.
Prior to the Oct. 8 opener against Ottawa, the Sabres will host a party in Alumni Plaza outside the arena from 5-6:30 p.m. Alumni and Sabretooth will be on hand for autographs, there will be live music as well as food and beverage for purchase. All fans attending the game will receive a special opening night handout.
There will be a party on Oct. 10 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. prior to the 1 p.m. game against Tampa Bay featuring children’s face painting, balloon artists, bounce houses, fan photo area and a miniature zoo. All fans attending the game will receive a magnetic schedule.
The Oct. 12 game against Columbus, a 3 p.m. start, has the team offering Kid’s Day tickets for $15 apiece for up to four children with the purchase of one 300 Level II ticket. Youth tickets are valid for children 15 and under.
There will also be two public skate sessions at HarborCenter Monday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. Admission is $6 on a first-come, first-served basis or $5 with a BlueCross BlueShield card.