An upper-body injury will force Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe to miss the next next five to six weeks, likely ending the 25-year-old's season, the team announced Monday morning.
McCabe, a restricted free agent this summer, suffered the injury in the second period of a 5-2 loss in Toronto on Saturday night. It is the second consecutive year his season has been cut short. He missed the final two months of 2017-18 because of shoulder surgery.
He was on pace for a career year until an upper-body injury forced him to miss nine games from Nov. 30 through Dec. 18. McCabe had two goals among 10 points with a plus-2 rating in his first 25 games, but he had two goals among four points with a minus-9 rating in his final 30 games.
"He's a warrior," coach Phil Housley said of McCabe following Monday's morning skate in KeyBank Center. "He always puts his body in harm's way, brings a physical element to our team. Yeah, it's going to be tough to replace him, but we've got guys who are very capable of doing that."
McCabe, a left-handed defenseman who has played parts of six seasons with the Sabres since being drafted in the second round in 2012, averaged 18 minutes, 51 seconds this season and ranked second on the team with 95 blocked shots — 16 more than he had in only two fewer games in 2017-18. He also ranked third in hits and has logged the fifth-most minutes on the NHL's fifth-best penalty kill.
Additionally, defenseman Zach Bogosian was not available to play Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers despite participating in the morning skate.
The Sabres have depth on the blue line despite trading Nathan Beaulieu to Winnipeg moments before last week's trade deadline. If Bogosian is available Thursday, the Sabres will have six healthy defensemen remain on the roster — Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Brandon Montour, Matt Hunwick and Casey Nelson — with additional help in Rochester.
However, neither Hunwick nor Nelson, both of whom were healthy scratches Saturday in Toronto, have the type of penalty-killing experience and snarl that make McCabe valuable.
McCabe has 14 goals among 61 points in 270 games with the Sabres. He made $1.6 million this season and is arbitration eligible this summer, according to CapFriendly.com. His timeline to return would allow him to join the team for the playoffs if they manage to make an unprecedented run over the season's final five weeks.
Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill will have a difficult decision to make this offseason since none of his other NHL defensemen are on expiring contracts and Lawrence Pilut should be ready to carve out a full-time role with the Sabres in 2018-19.
Winger Vladimir Sobotka participated in the Sabres' morning skate Monday but missed a third consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. The 31-year-old has four goals among 11 points in 60 games this season, including just one goal in his last 47 games.
Jason Pominville controlled his own fate at the trade deadline because the 36-year-old winger has a no-movement clause in his contract and Botterill never approached him about approving a trade from Buffalo.
TSN's Elliotte Friedman reported early last month that Pominville, a pending unrestricted free agent, was being shopped by the Sabres. But Pominville has made it clear that he had no interest in such a move.
"Definitely happy to be here," Pominville said Monday. "I definitely wanted to be part of the solution and stick around. My family enjoys it here. We're comfortable here, so we were thrilled about the end result."
The Sabres' Bald for Bucks campaign raised a record $110,254 for Roswell Park with donations from 37 states, the team announced Monday on Twitter. Martin Biron and Dan Dunleavy contributed by shaving for the event.