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Sabres Notebook: Defensive depth tested again; Botterill inducted into Michigan Hall of Fame

DALLAS – The Sabres spent much of the offseason building their defense corps. Maybe one of these days the six starters will play at the same time.

Then again, the way things are going, maybe they won't.

"Eventually, we'll get there," coach Phil Housley said.

It didn't happen Saturday against Dallas as yet another member of the defense corps sat out because of injury. Rasmus Ristolainen was out with an upper-body injury suffered during Thursday's win in Arizona. He met with an athletic trainer following the game, and he was out of sight Saturday.

"He's a day-to-day situation right now," Housley said in American Airlines Center. "Obviously, you lose a guy like that who logs a lot of minutes, plays in every situation, we're going to have to spread that around a little bit, rely on other guys.

"But other guys are getting opportunities. That's the way they've got to look at it."

Taylor Fedun took Ristolainen's spot in the lineup, while Victor Antipin moved into Ristolainen's place on the top power-play unit. The juggling of assignments is nothing new for Buffalo.

"We've had the injury bug on our back end for as long as I can remember here," defenseman Jake McCabe said. "It seems we always go eight, nine, 10, 11 deep almost on our depth chart."

Just 14 games into the season, the Sabres have already used 10 defensemen. Last season, they dressed 12.

"The ability to have that depth is nice, and I think it's something management focused on this offseason," McCabe said. "Now it's come to the point where we've got to step up."

The Sabres' top six was scheduled to be Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian, McCabe and Antipin. They have yet to appear in the same game. Bogosian has been sidelined all year by a lower-body injury. Beaulieu has missed six in a row with an upper-body injury. Josh Gorges is out with a lower-body injury that's cost him seven games.

"You just have to deal with it," Scandella said. "Everyone's got to take a little more responsibility, a few more minutes, but it's exciting. It gives guys some chances. Everyone is playing with excitement. There's a lot of ice time out there for everybody.

"You've just got to embrace it and have fun with it, not worry about what we don't have and just worry about what we have in this room."

Though Ristolainen isn't having his best season, he's still the Sabres' No. 1 defenseman. He's skating 27:09 per night, the highest total in the NHL. He's added five assists.

"Losing a guy like Risto, it's never easy," Scandella said. "He's a big part of this team and plays with a big body, big role. Guys are going to have to step up, for sure."


Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill made a trip back to the University of Michigan this weekend. It was for a good reason.

Botterill was part of the 2017 Dekers Club Hall of Fame class. He was honored Friday along with Brendan Morrison, Marty Turco, John Madden, Denny Felsner, Matt Herr and Bill Muckalt.

Botterill won an NCAA title at Michigan in 1996 and had three Frozen Four appearances during his four-year career. He recorded 186 points for the school and was named a second-team All-American as a senior in 1996-97.

The Dekers Blue Line Club is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that has supported Michigan hockey program since its founding in 1962. The first Hall of Fame class was inducted in 1964.


The Stars are celebrating their 25th season in Dallas, and they're bringing back former players throughout the year. One of their "Reunion Nights" was Saturday as Dallas honored Shane Churla, a former enforcer who holds the franchise record with 1,833 penalty minutes.

Upcoming reunions will feature Guy Carbonneau, Ed Belfour, Bill Guerin, Jamie Langenbrunner and Turco.

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