RALEIGH, N.C. -- Veteran Jay McKee is out with a seriously infected cut on his shin, leaving the Buffalo Sabres down four regular defensemen for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday against Carolina.
Coach Lindy Ruff said after the team's morning skate that McKee will not play and is still recovering at home in Buffalo. Ruff said the infection is believed to be the result of a cut that didn't heal after McKee blocked a shot in the second-round series against Ottawa.
Ruff's team is already minus defensemen Teppo Numminen (hip flexor), Henrik Tallinder (broken left arm) and Dmitri Kalinin (ankle). Ruff said Nathan Paetsch will make his NHL career debut filling in for McKee.
"He's scared and we were scared for him," Ruff said of McKee.
"But you just let out that little chuckle that maybe that's just
the next step for us."
The Sabres have overcome injuries during the regular season and in the playoffs, but Ruff said he's never known of a team that's
lost four defensemen and a key center -- Tim Connolly, who's out
with a concussion -- during one stretch.
"I can tell you one thing, this group has a way of battling
through it and I have the utmost belief that we can do it again,"
McKee is the team's top shot-blocker and best defensive player. He was a force in Buffalo's 2-1 overtime victory on Tuesday. He logged more than 26 minutes of ice time -- third most on the team --
was credited with five checks and blocked three shots.
The severity of the infection caught the team by surprise. Ruff
said McKee woke up in pain with his leg swollen early Wednesday and
was treated at a Buffalo hospital later in the day.
Paetsch would become the 13th Sabres player to also make his NHL career playoff debut.
Buffalo's seventh-round pick in the 2003 draft, Paetsch had 11 goals and 39 assists in 72 games for AHL Rochester last season, finishing tied for third on the team in scoring.