Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
After dancing with the media last night about who would start in goal for the Buffalo Sabres tonight when the New Jersey Devils come to town, head coach "Disco" Dan Bylsma announced that Linus (pronounced Leenus) Ullmark will get his first NHL start.
Ullmark's arrival in Buffalo for his first game is just this side of amazing after undergoing elective double-hip surgery in April. The original prognosis was a 6-8 month recovery time but that was pushed up to a return to game-action in November, but his recuperative powers had him back and starting for the Rochester Americans on October 8th.
With Nathan Lieuwen up in Buffalo the door opened up for Ullmark and he dazzled during a 38-save performance against the Utica Comets (VAN.) "You can go on and on about what [Ullmark] did tonight," said Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth post-game. "[His] positioning, quickness, reading [the play], finding the puck. Just textbook. [He's] a big reason we managed to get the win."
Although the Amerks proceeded to lose in his next two starts, Ullmark has been able to hold his own and even rise to the occasion. In his last game before being called up he faced 46 shots from Utica stopping 43 of them for a .934 save percentage. Overall Ullmark has stopped 111 of the 119 shots he's faced for a .932 sv%. Not bad for a guy who didn't play in the preseason.
Buffalo GM Tim Murray focused heavily on the forwards when he turned his sights to building the Sabres and at times he's mentioned the goalie situation working itself out. This is the first big opportunity for this group of homegrown goalies.
Ullmark stands 6'3" and weighs in at 198 lbs. His transition to North American hockey has gone well in Rochester and now he gets a crack at the big-time. Something tells me he'll be ready despite the inconsistent play the Sabres skaters have shown thus far (see last night's 7-2 loss to Montreal.) "We have a thing, risk management," Ullmark said on Thursday. "You always have to be aware of the risk that can happen. You don't think about the safe play. You think about what could go wrong. Everything can turn real bad real fast."
He witnessed that first-hand last night as back-up in Buffalo and hopefully he won't sniff that tonight.
This is the first of 15 sets of back-to-backs for the Sabres this season, down from 19 in 2014-15. Last season they went 4-14-1 in the first game and 4-14-1 in the second game. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets last season was: four points (1), three points (1), two points (5), one point (1) and zero points (11).