BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Sabres are expected to start their fifth goalie this season against Boston on Friday night, with interim head coach Don Granato confirming that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will make his NHL debut against the Bruins.
Luukonen has played the majority of his season in Rochester, so Granato hasn't seen much of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound netminder from Finland much, but he's intrigued by his size and ability.
"The bit that I have watched him, it's clear to see his athletic ability already, his positional knowledge, his size. He has a presence. There is a definite presence to him in the net," Granato said.
"So, to the quick eye test, he's been fun to watch and see. I'm like anybody else. We all are, we're waiting. We're excited to see him at the next level, this level, the next step. We waited a couple days, obviously, to have him here, to acclimate to his surrounding as much as he could. We're playing the same opponent again, so he's been able to watch them. He's had the time to prepare for this, which is better, I think. Like anyone else, I'm excited to see him in net."
Luukkonen was the Sabres' 2017 second-round pick in the NHL Draft and will get his chance after Dustin Tokarski started the previous night in a 5-1 loss to the Bruins. The Sabres' top two goalies, Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton, are both out with lower body injuries.
"It’s very exciting to see a young goalie play his first game. You can see him in the locker room, he’s very happy and excited, so we’re going to do everything we can to get his first win," defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said after Friday morning's optional skate. "He’s been working for this his whole life, so we are all excited for him."
Luukkonen will be up against another Finnish goalie on Friday night, with veteran Tuukka Rask named the Bruins starter.