Kellen Briggs was signed to a pro tryout contract Tuesday by the Portland Pirates, the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate in the American Hockey League. Captain Jon Francisco also was placed on 7-day injured reserve, leaving the Reign without two of their better players for Thursday’s game in Phoenix.
Fortunately for Karl Taylor, center Denny Johnston was activated off injured reserve, giving the coach a logical fill-in for Francisco. Francisco had been battling recurring back spasms that landed him on IR earlier in the season, and was given time off from practice recently. No word yet if this stay on IR is related to the first.
As for Briggs, his recall stems from the trickle-down effect of Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller’s high ankle sprain. Miller’s replacement, Sabres backup Patrick Lalime, came down with the flu recently, and Swedish goalie Jhonas Enroth got the call-up from Portland.
Presumably, the duration of Briggs’ stay in the AHL – the first of his career – depends on three things:
1. The duration of Ryan Miller’s high ankle sprain. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News recently that “an ankle sprain takes time and you don’t know how much time it’s going to take.” In media-speak, Miller is out indefinitely.
2. The capability of Enroth as an NHL backup. Buffalo could find out soon; it’s possible Enroth will start Thursday in Carolina if Lalime can’t go because of the flu. If Enroth bombs, he could get sent back down, and Briggs could be returning to Ontario. Even if Enroth doesn’t bomb, the Sabres might want to trade for an experienced goalie to complement Lalime in case Miller’s recovery takes longer than expected. The NHL trade deadline is March 4.
3. Briggs’ own performance in the AHL. He’s never played at the next level before, but has posted very good stats in two years in the ECHL. Briggs becomes the eighth player signed by or assigned to the Reign to start the season (Zatkoff, Murray, Martens, Johnston, Rheault, Collins, Card) to get the AHL call.
A second goalie has not been signed to back up Jeff Zatkoff in Phoenix. We’ll keep you posted.