BUFFALO — It was instantly better. Upon his arrival from Vancouver on Feb. 27, Alexander Sulzer went from the Canucks’ eighth defenseman to the Sabres’ seventh.
Yes, the German was still a spare part. But moving up one slot made him that much closer to playing, something he had only done 12 times in Vancouver all season. Sulzer was a healthy scratch an incredible 51 times.
“Obviously, since there are only seven defensemen, if something happens where a coach is unhappy with a guy the way he plays, I’m in right away instead of having to sit out and wait for seven D,” Sulzer said Wednesday inside the First Niagara Center.
And if the Sabres’ brittle defensive corps suffered another injury, the 27-year-old would play.
About eight hours after Sulzer spoke Wednesday, he was a surprise addition to the lineup. Andrej Sekera had come down with a bad case of the flu.
So far, Sulzer’s played four games with the Sabres, including the last three, averaging 17:57 a contest, mostly beside fellow countryman Christian Ehrhoff.
Sulzer could skate again tonight when the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens.
By now, three full years into his NHL career, Sulzer (pronounced ZUHLT-ser) has learned to deal with sitting. He’s never played more than 40 games in a campaign and only 78 total.
“I always play like 30, 40 games maybe,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m used to it now. I know how to handle it better. I know how to stay positive. I just work hard every day. I’m still one of the 700 players who play in the NHL, which is definitely not a bad thing. It could be quite worse.”
Defensemen possess so much athleticism these days many can be partnered with anyone. Sulzer’s quietly slid into the lineup and skated beside the slick Ehrhoff, a $10 million defender.