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Alex Tuch sheds noncontact jersey, close to making Sabres debut

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Golden Knights Avalanche Hockey

Alex Tuch spent four seasons in Vegas, totaling 61 goals in 249 regular-season games.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – Alex Tuch will no longer be a bystander during some practice drills with the Buffalo Sabres and is closer to making his debut with the team.

Tuch, a 25-year-old winger who has yet to appear in a game since arriving from Vegas in the Jack Eichel trade, won't be in the lineup during the final two games of this road trip, but he did not wear a noncontact jersey at practice Wednesday in Xcel Energy Center.

Coach Don Granato said following practice that Tuch will need more practices with checking before he's ready for game action. The Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. 

"He is close," Granato said. "He’s going to go through a couple days of contact and then we’ll get a better picture of strength, response. It won’t be within the next five days, but it could be soon after that."

Tuch began skating with the team last month in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, but he was forced to watch any drills that involved checking.

One of two players acquired in the blockbuster November trade, Tuch had 61 goals and 139 points in 249 regular-season games with Vegas from 2017 through 2021. He helped the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup final during their expansion season and has appeared in 66 career playoff games.

Tuch has totaled 15 or more goals in three of the past four seasons, finishing 2020-21 with 18 goals and 33 points in 55 games. He underwent shoulder surgery in July and was expected to be out until approximately January.

The Sabres are without center Casey Mittelstadt, who recently underwent surgery on an undisclosed injury. Adding Tuch will strenghten a lineup that was also without Victor Olofsson earlier this season.

"It is exciting," Granato added. "You’re talking about your high-end skill that’s not in the lineup. To get that in the lineup, obviously, it bumps everybody else down to another slot, which is a benefit to the entire team. …When you think about adding Alex Tuch in for the team, that’s the impact for the team. Obviously, the other impacts would be just his skill level, ability, experience in the league now and success. He’s working hard. I think he’s got to ramp it up another level now that he’s got clearance and get in more physical game shape."

Additionally, defenseman Robert Hagg returned to Buffalo to undergo testing on an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss the third period of the Sabres' 4-2 win over the Jets in Winnipeg on Tuesday night. The Sabres plan to recall a player from Rochester, Granato confirmed, but the team is not ready to disclose the roster move.

Winger Anders Bjork also sat out practice for maintenance, Granato said. The Sabres have yet to decide which goalie will start Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.

With Bjork absent, the Sabres' lines were as follows:

Skinner-Thompson-Olofsson

Murray-Cozens-Okposo

Asplund-Girgensons-Hayden

Tuch/Jankowski-Eakin-Hinostroza

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News Sports Reporter

I've covered the Sabres and National Hockey League for The Buffalo News since November 2018. My previous work included coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Pittsburgh athletics for DKPittsburghSports.com.

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