Michael Houser is expected to make his second consecutive start for the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, MSG+, NHL.TV).
The 28-year-old goalie made 34 saves in a 4-2 win against the Islanders on Monday. It was his NHL debut and first professional game since March 7, 2020 for Cincinnati of the ECHL.
“It’s super exciting,” Houser said after the victory. “I’m not really in that great of game shape either, I’ll admit that. So I was like after the game celebrating and everything, I could barely breathe, so I’m just trying to catch my breath right now.”
Houser got the start after Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen sustained a lower-body injury during the second period against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and Dustin Tokarksi returned home for a family matter. Each goalie is not expected to be available for the Sabres’ final three regular-season games.
Buffalo (14-32-7) has been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention and is last in the eight-team MassMutual East Division.
“We seem to have better games, maybe [because of] younger legs, in back to backs,” Sabres coach Don Granato said Tuesday. “I hope that’s the case tonight, where our energy level is still good and high. You embrace the challenge of it. If you are tired, you fight through it.
“I think Michael is one of those personalities, so he will fight through. He may not even notice that he’s tired until after the game is what I suspect because of the competitive adrenaline he has, and many others have.”
Houser is the sixth goalie to start for the Sabres this season, and few have come further to reach the NHL. He has played hockey since age 5 and had to play goalie because of a foot deformity. Houser was born with bilateral clubfeet and needed more than a dozen surgeries before turning 4 years old.
He played for London of the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons, winning the OHL player of the year award and the Canadian Hockey League goalie of the year award in 2011-12, but was passed over in the NHL draft. Houser played most of the past nine seasons in the ECHL, and for San Antonio, Ontario, Cleveland and Tucson in the American Hockey League. He started this season as a backup in Rochester of the AHL and signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with Buffalo on March 19.
“It was awesome,” Sabres forward Tage Thompson said Monday. “The boys were really fired up for him. He stood on his head, played a great game. Not too many more deserving guys. He’s one of the hardest working goalies I’ve ever been with. Really good feeling seeing him get rewarded.”
Stefanos Lekkas will back up Houser. He signed a professional tryout contract Monday.
Carter Hutton is not expected to play again this season. The goalie was injured during the first period of a game against the New York Rangers on March 22, when Rangers forward Julien Gauthier slid into him. Hutton had been skating and appeared possible to return, but Granato said April 27 he had a setback in his recovery.
NHL.com independent correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report