Buffalo's new goaltending tandem ready to get to work

September 14, 2018
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As part of the overhaul of the roster following the disastrous 2017-18 season, the Buffalo Sabres decided to part ways with both goaltenders Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. In their place comes 32-year-old veteran goalie Carter Hutton, and 25-year-old Linus Ullmark up from the Rochester Americans.

Hutton comes to Buffalo via free agency, where the Sabres signed the six-year veteran to a three-year contract worth $8.25 million. He spent the past the past two seasons with the St. Louis Blues, serving mainly as a backup to Jake Allen. In 62 games played in St. Louis, Hutton was 30-15-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. Last season, Hutton had a career-year with the Blues, starting in 26 games with an impressive 2.09 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

Coming to Buffalo for his first season with the Sabres, Hutton realizes the expectations are much different here than when he was in St. Louis.

"We had a team that was expected to win all the time," Hutton said with his meeting with the media on Thursday at KeyBank Center. "I think here we've established that we're growing and we're trying to get better all the time. But at the same time, I don't want to sit and and say - we're not setting the bar low by any means. We want to be in the playoffs or be a contender. We also understand that having younger guys in the lineup, you're going to take your bumps and bruises. I think from Day 1 here, we're going build to win games and be a better team. As a veteran guy, my job is to come in here and create that culture and help us win hockey games."

Hutton will likely have his first chance at earning a starting job in the National Hockey League with the Sabres this season as Buffalo will take their time developing Ullmark at the NHL level. The native of Thunder Bay, Ontario has been a part of some playoff teams in the past, and knows how important it is to have depth goaltending in order to have a chance at team success.

"The goalies back in the day when you were playing 70 games, you look at Martin Broduer, those days have come and gone," Hutton said. "You mostly have a 50-30 split for a majority of successful teams, and I think you look at the two Cup teams last year, Vegas and Washington, at times their depth goaltending carried a lot of weight. For me, I want to take on a lot of pressure, but at the same time I understand that we need two good goalies to be successful. Coming in here with Linus, Scott [Wedgewood] and the depth goalies we have, we're all going to push each other, but at the same time I want to use my experience and skill set to play more minutes and help this team win."

09-13 Carter Hutton

As for Ullmark, he is getting set for his first full-time season in the NHL after spending a majority of the last three years with the Amerks.

In his three years in Rochester, Ullmark was able to grow his game and get used to life playing the North American game. Each season, Ullmark's numbers have progressively increased as he became more of a pivotal piece to the organization's future. Last year, he started 44 games in Rochester, registering a 2.44 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Ullmark was named to his second All-Star Game in consecutive years, and helped the Amerks return to the Calder Cup playoffs after missing out on the playoffs for three seasons.

However, the end of the season could not have been more rough for Ullmark, who posted a 5.50 goals-against and an .800 save percentage in the three-game series loss at the hands of the Syracuse Crunch.

While Ullmark took the series loss pretty tough at the end of the season, he has not let it affect him at all heading into the 2018-19 campaign in Buffalo.

"You can't look in the past. You have to look forward all the time, and I think people are just enjoying the moment here," Ullmark said after practice on Friday. "We've got a great group of guys. Got some younger, really talented players. Also, the veterans are very inspirated by what's to come, and that's it."

It may have only been the first day of practice on Friday at HarborCenter, but Ullmark has already embraced that day-to-day mindset.

"[I'm working on] different things every now and then that you have to think about, but you have to get it all into one place and to sort all the pieces out," Ullmark said. "For me, it's a little hard to say right now. I'm just going to go out there and try my very best and hope that works."

This offseason was an eventful one for him, mainly filled with dirty diapers and spending it as a first-time father to a baby boy.

However, it's back to work for the young netminder, but he's not trying to set his goals too high for this upcoming season.

"I always want to go out there and win every game. That's always been my goal," Ullmark said. "I know it's not going to be possible, it's very different from playing in juniors compared to [the NHL]. I'm just going to go out there and enjoy."

Both Hutton and Ullmark have been in town for some time now, and have been able to skate and work with one another before the opening of training camp on Thursday. The two have been able to get to know one another, but not too many experiences have been exchanged between one another at the time being. However, once the season gets going, Hutton is hoping to be a good companion for the Swedish netminder and help him learn the ropes of becoming a full-time goalie in the NHL.

"He has a good attitude. He's fun to be around, which is good" Hutton said. "It's a long season, and he's got a tremendous skill set. I've skated with him a few times now. He's a really big goalie, which is something you can't teach, but he moves well and he handles the puck pretty well. It's something going into camp - I think as we get to play more in game situations, I hope that we can use each other to pick each other brains. He can lean on me, and I can use my experience of playing in different arenas and in different situations to help him get through the lump of playing a full season. It's a lot different than [the American Hockey League].  He's been called up, he's spent time [here], but the wear and tear with the travel, the stuff we deal with and just the mental grind. Hopefully I can help him in that sense."

The Sabres will return to the ice on Saturday for practice at 9:45 a.m. at HarborCenter. All practice sessions are free and open to the public.

09-14 Linus Ullmark