Tuch set for season debut, first game with Sabres against Blue Jackets

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BUFFALO — Alex Tuch will make his season debut and play his first game for the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, when they are scheduled to host the Columbus Blue Jackets at KeyBank Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BSOH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). 

The forward missed the first 30 games of this season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He was acquired by the Sabres in a trade that sent center Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 4.

“Two days, less than five months since surgery. It’s been a long road,” Tuch said Sunday. “Coming to a new team, trying to mesh with your teammates but you’re not able to go in and battle, has been difficult. At the same time, I think it’s made it really easy on me coming into a new city. They’ve been very welcoming. I’ve had some ups and downs, like any other rehab process, but I like where I’m at right now and I’m excited to get going here.”

Tuch first joined the Sabres for practice Nov. 29 wearing a non-contact jersey. He’s been practicing in a regular jersey since Dec. 15 and skated on a line with Dylan Cozens and Brett Murray on Sunday.

He’s scored 139 points (61 goals, 78 assists) in 255 NHL games, including NHL career highs of 20 goals, 32 assists and 52 points for the Golden Knights in 2018-19.

“He’s ready to go,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “He’s as excited as anybody I’ve seen to play a game because it’s here, because he’s putting that jersey on. Anybody that’s grown up in the game of hockey loves it like we all do, because we’re in the business. When you see that you feel that and that’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

Tuch grew up a Sabres fan in Syracuse, New York, two hours east of Buffalo. His parents, brother and sister are expected to attend the game Monday.

“He was the fan, he was the kid in the stands watching Sabres hockey, aspiring to play for the Sabres,” Granato said. “And I think [Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin], they’re a lot like that. They have a respect and appreciation for the organization and the opportunity within the organization that they have.

“So Tuch coming in really was an added breath of fresh air. I think the other guys were a breath of fresh air as well, and now you’ve just added another one from a different perspective that actually did live it. And that’s a great combination at the right time with all our young guys feeling the same way, but they didn’t grow up here.”

Thompson did not practice Sunday and his status for Monday has yet to be determined. Granato said the forward has “some soreness” and was being evaluated. 

Goalie Craig Anderson, out since Nov. 2 with an upper-body injury, was on the ice after practice to test his injury.

The Blue Jackets canceled practice Sunday after placing forwards Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic, and defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, in NHL COVID-19 protocol. They are scheduled to have a morning skate in Columbus on Monday before traveling to Buffalo.

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