BUFFALO — The first period down to its final minute, Matt Beleskey was at the blue line, hoping to push the puck into the offensive zone, or possibly prepared to dash across the ice to the Boston bench.
In a matter of seconds, he was headed to the bench, but not dashing. Felled by a Taylor Fedun hip check, the 28-year-old winger struggled his way to the bench door and was in obvious leg pain from the check.
As the final seconds of the period counted down, Beleskey navigated his way behind the bench and was already in the dressing room by the time the horn sounded. He was done for the day, after only playing six shifts and 5:27 in ice time.
“They haven’t told me,” said coach Claude Julien, asked whether the injury, be it to Beleskey’s knee or thigh, would keep him sidelined long or short term. “They told me he wasn’t returning. Hopefully tomorrow or Monday we’ll have a better sense of what is going on here.”
With Beleskey hors de combat, Julien came up with a number of line combinations with his 11 remaining forwards. One had rookie Anton Blidh, called up Friday, manning Beleskey’s spot on a line with Riley Nash and Austin Czarnik.
Dinged up on the blue line, the Sabres called up one of their top junior prospects, Brendan Guhle, from the Prince George Cougars in the Western League.
Guhle, 19, was chosen 51st overall in the 2015 draft, only 14 spots after the Bruins selected Brandon Carlo, one of Guhle’s opponents in the WHL (Carlo then with the Tri-City Americans).
Due to CBA restrictions, in-season call-ups from the junior ranks are infrequent.
“I didn’t even know they were allowed,” Guhle told the Sabres’ reporters before puck drop.
Guhle, allowed to play nine NHL games before the Sabres are forced to add him to their 2016-17 roster, was pressed into duty because of injuries to Zach Bogosian, Dmitry Kulikov, and Josh Gorges. Guhle logged 16:20, landed four shots on net — matching William Carrier for the team high — and finished plus-1.
“That was pretty cool,’’ said Carlo, happy to see another WHLer get a chance in the bigs. “I got an opportunity to play with him at the CHL Top Prospects game, so I know him a little bit, and that’s awesome that he got the call to come up. Obviously, I am still young, I haven’t seen someone get called up from the Dub. That was pretty cool. I didn’t know that could happen.”
Blidh, called up from AHL Providence on Friday, made his NHL debut, riding his off wing (right) on a fourth-line trio with Ryan Spooner and Dominic Moore before Beleskey was felled.
Blidh’s addition meant the long-anticipated subtraction of Jimmy Hayes, the ex-Boston College standout, who put up but a single point (goal) in 22 games and was a team-worst minus-9.
Blidh’s official debut came at the 3:00 mark of the first. He finished with 10 shifts, 10:12 in ice time, and landed three shots on net.
“I thought he worked hard, competed hard, he was disciplined,” said Julien, ticking off what he liked about Blidh’s performance. “He was making the right things happen, so there’s all the reasons in the world to trust a guy who does that, whether he’s got experience in this league or not. When he plays the way he did, then I am fine with that. He got the ice time he deserves. His grit, his determination to win battles is great, and that’s what got him here.”
The Bruins had an 11 a.m. practice scheduled Sunday at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, but it was scrubbed after the win. Captain Zdeno Chara, who missed a sixth straight game on Saturday, was expected to work out and could be back in the lineup Monday night when the Panthers visit the Garden. Chara was hurt midway through the Nov. 22 game vs. the Blues . . . With back-to-back games coming up (Wednesday in Washington, followed by a visit from the Avalanche on Thursday), Julien noted that he will split the goaltending duties between Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, the latter of whom turned in yeoman’s work in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win over Carolina for his first victory this season . . . Julien on Patrice Bergeron battling back from the bug: “He just sucks it up. Patrice, you’ve got to do a heck of a lot to keep him out of a lineup. He’s almost got to be strapped down in a bed for him not to come and play.” It was clear Bergeron wasn’t near 100 percent, evidenced by his low output at the faceoff dot (11 for 33). Patrice the Thief is normally a puck-winning machine in the circle.