The Buffalo Sabres received some unwelcome news on the injury front less than one week into training camp, as the club reported that forward Zemgus Girgensons underwent successful surgery to repair a hamstring injury suffered during a team scrimmage on Monday and that he will be out for approximately six months.
The 27-year-old Latvian was selected in the first round by Buffalo in 2012 and was expected to be a significant contributor as a two-way forward entering his eighth season and after signing a three-year, $6.6 million extension in October.
“We all can feel the hole that Zemgus leaves with his injury. The character, the work ethic, the role that he has in our group is something that makes him unique. I challenged the group today to chip in and to take a piece of that hole.” Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said on Wednesday. “We want to keep him close in the rehab and help him to get back, but it’s part of sports and we need to move forward and look at options (to replace him).”
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One potential option for the Sabres is veteran Riley Sheahan, who joined the club on a professional tryout last week. The 29-year-old has played with Detroit, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Edmonton in his nine-year career and had 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 66 games with the Oilers as a depth forward last season and is known for being an excellent faceoff specialist and for his ability to kill penalties.
“Everybody knows what Sheahan’s strengths are, we are still evaluating the situation.”. Krueger said. “The defensive side of the game is going to be extremely important in our division and we need that role of Zemgus to be filled. We are taking a closer look, but he is a very good candidate to help us fill in.”
Another potential option for Buffalo is 2019 first-rounder Dylan Cozens, who is coming off a dominant performance at the 2021 IIHF World Junior. The 19-year-old led Canada with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists), but after playing in the tournament has to quarantine before being able to get on the ice with the Sabres.
“Dylan is clearly much advanced in his integration with the club and with Zemgus going down, there will be a need to integrate him into the process.”
The seventh overall pick still has junior eligibility with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, but the WHL’s uncertain status of starting their season may give the Sabres the excuse to give him some action before making a decision to return him to Lethbridge or assign him to the American Hockey League if the CHL does not resume.
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