Zemgus Girgensons, like most hockey players, hates to be away from the team. After sustaining an upper body injury against San Jose on Nov. 14 he missed the next four games.
Tuesday afternoon he was back at practice with a good chance he will return to the lineup when the Buffalo Sabres host the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. Wednesday in First Niagara Center.
“I’m just excited to practice with the team,” Girgensons said. “I’ve been a little bit bored the past couple of days with the injury. It’s never fun.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said there was a possibility Girgensons would return, noting the staff would see how the forward felt after Wednesday’s morning skate.
Getting Girgensons back would help the Sabres offense, which has sputtered the last five games. The team has scored five goals in that span going 0-3-2. And while Girgensons has just one goal and one assist, he has been a key factor for the Sabres in the puck possession game.
“Whenever we have the puck technically we’re on offense no matter where it is,” forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “But when we can possess it like that and having,” Girgensons, “he has great vision for it. He protects the puck well. It hurts when you have a guy like that out of the lineup.”
While the Sabres are struggling to score, Nashville comes to town singing its own downtrodden country tune.
A 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday at Madison Square Garden marked the first time in franchise history the Predators have been shut out in three straight games. The teams’ scoreless stretch is now at 213:47, the longest in team history.
“We’re getting quality chances,” Nashville defenseman Seth Jones said in The Tennessean. “We’re moving the puck well, we’re shooting pucks. The past,” three “games we’ve probably outplayed the teams and” we’re “just not seeing results. There’s nothing much more to say.”
Frankly, Bylsma didn’t even want to approach the topic.
“I really don’t want to talk about this. They’re struggling to score right now. We’re struggling to score right now,” Bylsma said. “They went to Niagara Falls today. We did scoring drills. Tomorrow there might be 15 goals in the game. I don’t know. I’m a little nervous about talking about that.”
Along with Girgensons, defenseman Mike Weber returned to practice. Weber has missed the last seven games with a knee injury. Bylsma said Weber was “a little bit longer term” in his schedule to return to the lineup.
Missing from Tuesday’s practice were Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. Bylsma said Bogosian was given a maintenance day while Kane missed with a lower body injury.
“He’s day to day,” Bylsma said of Kane. “If we were in football I’d say probable but I don’t have to say that.”
Speaking of day-to-day injuries, Bylsma was again on the bench during practice as an injury has sidelined the coach from being on the ice. When asked when he’d return, Bylsma said, “Good question. Probably be off tomorrow morning, so Friday. We don’t need to talk about that.”