As the first group of Buffalo Sabres stepped on the KeyBank Center ice for training camp Friday morning, the team announced defenseman Zach Bogosian will not participate in any of the practices or preseason games scheduled this month.
Bogosian's absence was not unexpected since the 28-year-old underwent hip surgery in late April and was expected to need five to six months for recovery. However, coach Ralph Krueger told reporters following the first day of practices Friday that Bogosian's workouts have been limited to off the ice and the Sabres have yet to determine a timeline for the veteran's return.
Comparatively, goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen underwent hip surgery at around the same time as Bogosian and has resumed on-ice work with Dennis Miller, the team's rehab and development director. Though Luukkonen is also unable to participate in training camp practices or preseason games, General Manager Jason Botterill told reporters Monday that the 20-year-old is expected to return sometime in November.
"He’s just training off-ice," Krueger said of Bogosian. "We haven’t put a timeline on him yet. We’ll see how the next few days go, and we’ll give you feedback there. We’re not expecting him in the near future."
The Sabres are equipped to handle Bogosian's absence when the season begins. The roster is deep at right-shot defenseman after the additions of Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju this offseason. Also, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour and Casey Nelson have returned from last season.
Bogosian underwent surgery on the opposite hip in 2017-18, limiting him to only 65 games and forcing him to miss the first six games of last season. He scored three goals among 19 points in 2018-19, his fifth full season since being acquired in a trade from Winnipeg.
Bogosian is entering the final season of a seven-year, $36 million contract he signed with Winnipeg in July 2013. The Sabres could receive some temporary salary-cap relief by placing Bogosian on long-term injured reserve at the start of the season. Luukkonen and defenseman Lawrence Pilut are also missing training camp, while defenseman Matt Hunwick isn't expected to play this season because of a neck condition.
Montour at "100 percent"
Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour participated in the first session Friday and declared himself "100 percent" healthy after suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee during the IIHF World Championship in May.
The injury occurred on a late hit during Canada's 6-5 win over Slovakia and prevented Montour from completing the tournament, his first representing Canada.
"It was kind of a pain," Montour said. "I didn't think an injury like that would have been as serious. It was a long process. I had a long summer, so it was good to have that time to recover and get back to 100 percent. ... I didn't think it was going to be as grueling as it was."
Montour, who was acquired on the eve of last season's trade deadline, finished with 35 points in 82 games between Anaheim and Buffalo in 2018-19. He is a restricted free agent next summer.
Johansson leading Swedes
The first practice session consisted mostly of Rochester Americans and fringe NHL roster players, with a few exceptions: Montour, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo, Casey Mittelstadt, Marcus Johansson and Jake McCabe.
Additionally, Linus Ullmark and Andrew Hammond were in each goal. Johansson skated at right wing on a line with Victor Olofsson at left wing and Rasmus Asplund at center. Reinhart, meanwhile, skated on a line with Mittelstadt and C.J. Smith during line rushes early in practice.
Defenseman Nelson was paired with Montour and skated on the left side, an important development since Nelson likely will need to show he can play both sides to make the roster.
Eichel, Skinner split up
Krueger has broken up the Sabres' successful top line from last season, at least for now. During the second session Friday, Jack Eichel skated with his offseason training partner and close friend, Jimmy Vesey, as well as Conor Sheary, who lined up at right wing.
"It gives you a shot in the arm," Vesey said of skating with Eichel, whom he works out with during the offseason. "First day of camp, playing with Jack, he’s the captain. For me, I think it helps things go smoother because I have some familiarity with him. I don’t know many guys here that well. Being on the ice with him and being able to talk to him in between drills or not being afraid to yell for the puck makes things easier."
Krueger later explained to reporters that he wants to use the team's first five sessions together – including preseason games at Penn State and Columbus – to use experienced players with prospects, though Eichel and Skinner aren't skating with young linemates.
Jeff Skinner was the second-line left wing with Evan Rodrigues at center and Curtis Lazar, who spent much of last season with Stockton of the American Hockey League, at right wing.
Carter Hutton was the only NHL goalie in the second group, while Jonas Johansson and Michael Houser shared the opposite net. And though defense pairings changed a number of times during the practice, Rasmus Dahlin worked with Jokiharju, the right-shot defenseman acquired from Chicago in the Alexander Nylander trade, for a breakout drill.