BUFFALO — Casey Mittelstadt and Henri Jokiharju will each be out at least two weeks for the Buffalo Sabres, coach Don Granato said Friday.
Mittelstadt sustained an upper-body injury in the second period of the Sabres’ season-opening 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Jokiharju sustained a lower-body injury in the first period against the Canadiens but played through it the rest of the game, finishing with 16:39 of ice time.
“They’ll both be out at least a couple of weeks so it’s not short term, and our doctors will be evaluating that,” Granato said. “There’s still thought that it could be right around that range and there’s thought that it could go a little bit longer than that. It’s too early to tell on both those injuries, actually.”
Mittelstadt, who scored nine of his 10 goals last season after Granato replaced Ralph Krueger as coach March 17, entered the season as Buffalo’s first-line center. Jokiharju has formed a steady duo with Rasmus Dahlin as the top defense pair since being formed early during training camp.
“They’re big losses,” Granato said. “‘Joki’ has been paired with ‘Dahls’ and they’ve done a really good job and ‘Mittsy’ was in essence our No. 1 center. So I’m bummed for those two guys because they came into the season prepared and in shape and they had a great training camp, and right away this happens so it’s a bummer.”
The Sabres’ top center had been Jack Eichel, who was stripped of the Buffalo captaincy and placed on injured reserve Sept. 23 with a neck injury. Eichel failed his training camp physical because of a herniated disk in his neck and has expressed interest in an artificial disk replacement surgery, but the Sabres have said their doctors aren’t comfortable with a procedure that has not been performed on an NHL player and preferred an approach of rest and rehabilitation.
Dylan Cozens will get the opportunity to step into the top center role, bumped up to the first line at practice Friday, skating between Jeff Skinner and Vinnie Hinostroza.
“Obviously it means I’ve got to step up here,” Cozens said. “I’m ready to step up, I want to take as much responsibility as I can to step up and do what I can to help this team win. Obviously want to build off the momentum.”
It’s an opportunity Granato said he feels the 20-year-old can take on.
“He’s maturing before our eyes, he really is,” Granato said. “He’s picking up more detail and playing harder. He’s elevating his game and intensity. We’re seeing that even in practice. Most of the stuff you see in practice before you see it in a game. He’s taking practice a lot more serious and that’s a good sign.”
Buffalo hosts the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, MSG-B, BSAZ, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).