It was some time before Tyler Ennis could talk with the media after practice in KeyBank Center late Thursday morning.
The forward was in the training room getting treatment. And more treatment. And a little more after that.
Returning from his sports hernia/groin surgery has been a long process. It requires patience and precaution. That’s why Ennis, who returned on Monday after missing 30 games, was scratched on Tuesday in Toronto.
“It’s a complex area. There’s a lot going on down there,” Ennis said. “Optimistically I wanted to play every game here on out but you know, like I said it’s complex down there. I’ve just got to make sure I’m able to do what I can out there, that I’m able to play how I can out there so I’m going to stay getting treatment. It takes a lot of time and it’s a lot of work.
“It’s a horrible feeling because all I want to do is play. It’s frustrating just being out and everything that goes along with it. The worst is feeling you’re letting people down, letting the team down and all I want to do is get back.”
Coach Dan Bylsma expects Ennis back in the lineup Friday when the Sabres host Detroit in KeyBank Center. It’s a good chance he will play again Saturday in Montreal. Bylsma said he anticipated Ennis not being ready for back-to-back games earlier this week.
“It’s more likely that he’ll play this back-to-back than the first one,” Bylsma said. “I kind of anticipated the first one but planning right now for him to play the Detroit game and hopefully he can go forward with Montreal.”
Linus Ullmark was back with the Sabres Thursday, recalled from Rochester after Anders Nilsson came down with illness.
Ullmark sported his new goalie mask. Gone are the movie-inspired Minions. They're replaced by a tribute to Swedish goalies Stefan Liv and Pelle Lindbergh. Liv died at the age of 30 when the plane he was on with his Kontinental Hockey League team team crashed on Sept. 7, 2011. Lindbergh died at age 26 after he crashed his car on Nov. 10, 1985 in Somerdale, N.J.
And so it's finally here. My tribute to two of Swedens best goalies to ever play the game of hockey. Stefan Liv and Pelle Lindbergh. Two guys that shaped me and been an inspiration through out my career and will also continue to do so in the future. Super excited and proud to wear this mask from now on. 🙏⭐️ All my humblest thanks to @davidofdaveart for making this tribute.👊
“First of all I wanted to pay tribute to these fallen heroes,” Ullmark said. “They put Sweden on the map for goalies and for the hockey community. Especially Pelle was the first European goalie to win the Vezina and then you have Stefan, who was one of the best guys off the ice, on the ice and also when it comes to winning, especially those tight games. Once the playoff started, he was a monster.
“They both passed away too soon. It echoed through the whole Swedish community when both these guys lost their lives. … For me, they’ve been persons I’ve looked up to very much. I want to become the kind of persons they were.”
Bylsma was unsure if Nilsson would be able to dress for Friday’s game against Detroit.
“Don’t know that for sure just yet,” said Byslma, who added he got a text after the team returned from Toronto that Nilsson was sick. “He’s gone through a cycle so to speak yesterday and he has kept some food down today but not so it’s too early to tell whether he’ll be available.”
Bylsma also said that Josh Gorges was seeing the doctor on Thursday and getting an MRI for a hip injury that has caused him to miss the last six games. He noted that Dmitry Kulikov was skating on his own and added some physical contact to his sessions. Kulikov has missed 10 games with a lower back injury.
It was an unusual atmosphere at the Sabres practice Thursday morning as more than 2,500 local students were in the KeyBank Center lower bowl to watch the 40 minute-long practice.
The students are part of the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals program that focuses on using hockey to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). On Thursday they heard from former NHL players Kevyn Adams and Marty Biron, broadcaster Brian Duff, equipment manager Dave Williams and director of game presentation Kelsey Schneider as they talked about how hockey teaches fundamental STEM concepts.
The Future Goals program, launched in 2014, consists of more than 6,500 students from 96 schools in Western New York. The free program is open to middle schools and teachers can learn more by contacting Katie O’Donnell firstname.lastname@example.org.