Whenever Tyler Ennis tried to hit top speed, his body said no. That’s when he knew surgery was the only option.
“I have to be able to skate fast and be agile and be quick,” Ennis said Thursday. “If I don’t have that then I’m pretty useless out there.”
In an attempt to regain his footing, the Sabres forward underwent sports hernia/groin surgery in early November. He skated with his teammates Thursday for the first time since the operation.
“It was fun to be out there,” Ennis said in KeyBank Center. “I’ve still got to get everything feeling 100 percent, so today was a good first step.”
There is no timetable for Ennis’ return. Sports hernias typically take two months, so the winger likely has another week or two before returning to the lineup.
“It’s still a fairly long road for Tyler to assimilate and get back into playing a game,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
Ennis had just one goal and one assist in 12 games before the surgery. The swift-skating, crisp-cutting winger was playing without those weapons.
“It was just kind of gradually getting worse,” he said. “It reached the point where I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was frustrating.
“I had to get it looked at and found out there were some tears and stuff. I had to get them sewn up. I’m doing a good job healing.”
The surgery was part of a rough 13 months for the 27-year-old. He had a concussion in November 2015, then suffered a season-ending concussion last December. He was limited to just 12 games this calendar year.
“It’s about as tough a thing as you can go through as a hockey player,” Ennis said. “We all want to be out there. Hockey’s our life, so it’s frustrating.
“But I know that once I get my body healed up 100 percent, I’m going to be a better player.”
After acquiring Dmitry Kulikov, the Sabres couldn’t wait to see what he could do. They’re still waiting.
Kulikov continues to feel the effects of a preseason collision with the boards, and he missed Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins. The lower-back ailment has forced him out of 15 of Buffalo’s 35 games and hindered him in many that he did play.
“It’s something that Dmitry’s dealt with for a long time,” Bylsma said. “It just flared up really over the break with three days off. We’re hopeful that not playing in this game he’ll get better, he’ll get some recovery from it and get back.”
The defenseman has a chance of playing Saturday in Boston. Buffalo expected him to anchor the top pair with Rasmus Ristolainen this season, but the 26-year-old has no goals, one assist and a team-worst minus-10 rating.
“It’s been a challenge for us,” Bylsma said. “He just hasn’t been able to be there in the first 34 games on a regular basis, and we need him to desperately get back in there.”
William Carrier made a few enemies with a first-period hit that sent David Backes to the trainers’ room. After the Boston forward dumped the puck into the Buffalo zone, Carrier came from Backes’ blind side and hit him square in the chest.
Officials called Carrier for an illegal hit to the head. When the forward left the penalty box, Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid instigated a fight. Both linesmen immediately jumped in, but that didn’t stop Carrier from throwing overhand rights in his first NHL fight.
Boston’s Brad Marchand, who scored 37 goals last season, is on only a 22-goal pace after a big performance on Sidney Crosby's line at the World Cup of Hockey.
"His expectation is to score as many the following year, and right now he's not on that pace for that," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "When he's on top of his game, he can be a real game-changer for your hockey club. We rely on guys like that to come up big in big hockey games.”