By Bill Hoppe
BUFFALO — Lindy Ruff said he “was surprised, disappointed” that the NHL banned Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers three games for ramming Montreal’s Scott Gomez into the boards from behind.
Both the coach and Myers knew the boarding penalty Monday, which concussed Gomez, would probably earn a suspension. But three games for a player with a clean record?
“I felt that as a first-time offender it was a little harsh,” Ruff said Wednesday prior to the Sabres’ 5-4 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche inside the First Niagara Center.
To replace Myers, the Sabres summoned rookie defenseman Brayden McNabb from Rochester.
Ruff acknowledged he’d like more consistent punishment from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.
When Philadelphia’s Marc-Andre Bourdon smacked Nathan Gerbe into boards from behind Dec. 7, Shanahan never reviewed the hit. Gerbe was concussed and missed 10 games.
“One of our players can basically be in an identical situation, there was nothing,” Ruff said. “There’s disappointment.”
Myers didn’t want to comment much on the punishment. Instead, the 22-year-old put the blame on himself.
“They made their decision,” Myers said. “It is what it is. I knew it was going to be something. I just think I have to be smarter than that going into a situation like that. I never meant for him to get hurt. I wish him a quick recovery.”
According to reports out of Montreal, Gomez could be lost for the season, likely ending his disappointing three-year run with the Canadiens.
Myers must also sit road tilts Saturday in Florida and Monday in Tampa Bay.
Watching these pivotal games during the heat of a playoff race will be difficult.
“It’s going to be tough, especially this late in the year,” Myers said. “I’ll just stick to my routine. Hopefully, we can get some wins.”
Myers doesn’t want the suspension to curtail the physical style he’s been playing recently.
“I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I have to have a hearing like that,” he said. “But in saying that, I don’t want to back off in my physical play.”
Meanwhile, McNabb, a top prospect, played his first NHL contest since Jan. 13, mostly beside Mike Weber.
The 21-year-old impressed during his 20-game run earlier this season, skating more than 20 minutes a night the end. A concussion forced him out of the lineup, and the Sabres sent him back to Rochester when he recovered.
How’s he performed in the AHL recently?
“He’s been a good defender on the offensive side,” Ruff said. “He’s moved the puck well for them. Basically, what we saw the first time here. His confidence level was getting fairly high for us.”
The 6-foot-4, 204-pound McNabb has four goals, 25 points and a plus-15 rating with the Americans. His first recall cost him a spot in the AHL All-Star game. Winger Zack Kassian, who was recently dealt to Vancouver, replaced him.
McNabb said his eight weeks in the NHL made the AHL slow down.
“The game isn’t as fast (in the minors),” McNabb said. “I felt really comfortable down there. Being up here really helped my game.”
When the Sabres traded Kassian at the deadline, general manager Darcy Regier said McNabb and rookie winger Marcus Foligno would replaced Kassian’s physicality.
“It was tough. He was a good friend of mine down in Rochester,” McNabb said about Kassian leaving. “But things like that, that’s where I am a physical guy. I’m happy to step up in that role.”
McNabb’s recall could be brief. Defenseman Andrej Sekera (pneumonia, five games) skated Wednesday morning. Ruff hopes the Slovak, who lost weight during his illness, can return this weekend.
Center Jochen Hecht (concussion, 23 games) also skated. Ruff said the German’s been on the ice a few times.
“Just inching his way back to maybe getting closer to higher activity,” he said.
With Gerbe a surprise scratch (muscle pull) Wednesday, Cody McCormick returned following a 16-game absence (concussion).
McCormick played for only the 39th time this season, skating on the right wing beside Brad Boyes and Corey Tropp.
Gerbe was hurt late in the morning skate and participated in the pregame warm-up.
The Sabres the Sabres also scratched forward Matt Ellis (knee, two games).
With the Bills courting free agent defensive end Mario Williams and rumors floating he was watching the Sabres inside the FNC, some fans chanted his name and “We want Mario!” a couple of times.