BUFFALO — The Buffalo Sabers could be without their top six goalies when they face the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday (9 p.m. ET; BSAZ, MSG-B, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
Michael Houserwho was scheduled to start at least one of the next two games — Saturday or at the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday — was placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday.
He was the only Buffalo goalie with an NHL contract available before the weekend after Aaron Dell was suspended three games Wednesday for interfering with Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson in a 5-0 loss on Tuesday.
The Sabers signed Houser on Jan. 12, a day after Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (lower body) and Malcolm Subban (upper body) were injured in a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Houser (2-0-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .948 save percentage) was signed to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
Luukkonen is out week by week and has yet to return to training. Subban had surgery Jan. 20 and is out for the season.
Craig Anderson (4-2-0, 2.50 GAA, .921 save percentage) hasn’t played since Nov. 2, when he suffered an upper-body injury in a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks, and Dustin Tokarski is recovering from the effects of COVID-19.
Mat Robson and Charles Williams are Rochester’s roster keepers. Neither has played in the NHL or has an NHL contract.
Anderson joined the Sabers in practice for the first time Jan. 21 wearing a non-contact jersey and practiced in a regular jersey Thursday.
“There is no pressure (to come back),” he said on Thursday. “When the time is right, the time is right. We’re all competitors. I’m a competitor. My job is to get better and to go out and play, and I want to play. I think that’s the best thing, is the mentality of wanting to play. But on the other hand, you have to be honest with yourself.”
Tokarski was a full participant in practice Friday for a second straight day. He has traveled for the three-game road trip, but it’s unclear when he’ll be ready to play.
“It’s an everyday thing,” Tokarski said. “As everyone has told you, I wish I could give you more. But it’s actually the truth. Some days you feel something, some days you don’t. We work with the doctors, the coaches and staff to come up with a plan that is good for everyone, good for the team, good for my health.”
The hope was to have Anderson available for the weekend, but for him and Tokarski the final decision will be up to each of them.
“They are in the same situation that the medical team will clear them to leave when they feel they are comfortable with what they have been through in terms of injuries and recovery,” the coach said. of Buffalo, Don Granato, Friday. “That’s what it’s all about: speeding it up because they haven’t been in a lot of practice with the shooting, the traffic and the physique. …
“So the hope is, yeah, that they’re both feeling comfortable, more comfortable after going through the last two days of pretty good training intensity that they’re where they are. have to be.”