Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will have a chance to make his case for the Backup/1B goaltender tomorrow night at Columbus.
This time last year, you could argue that Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen could have been on pace to eventually snag at least the backup spot at goaltender for 2023-24. Devon Levi was still at Northeastern, and had yet to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, and Luukkonen may have even been the front-runner for the 1A spot this year following a remarkable January.
But the 24-year-old has seen more bad than good lately, and his performance at the Kraft Hockeyville game didn’t give him an edge. Eric Comrie, who he’s currently competing for the backup job with, looked much better during the Sabres loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week.
However, Luukkonen will get his chance against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as we learned earlier today that he will be in the net when the Blue and Gold travel to the Ohio state capital.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen can gain ground for the Buffalo Sabres backup job
Luukkonen will have some help, as the Sabres roster will look a lot like what we should see on Opening Night vs. the New York Rangers, barring injury. Connor Clifton and Erik Johnson will be in the lineup, along with most of the Sabres forwards sans Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner. Here’s a full look at who the Blue and Gold are bringing to Columbus, and you will see quite a few familiar names.
And the Blue Jackets also won’t be making things easy for Luukkonen, as the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, Boone Jenner, and Damon Severson, among others, are slated to suit up. Therefore, this one will make quite an interesting test for Luukkonen, and if he ends up enjoying a good game, perhaps he will gain some ground and turn this thing into a late preseason battle with Comrie.
This is about as close to a “dress rehearsal” as we may get, depending on what the Buffalo Sabres decide to do when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 6th. Overall, this one could be a “make-it-or-break-it” outing for Luukkonen if Buffalo rolls with just a pair of goaltenders to kick off the season.