Sabres’ Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen named NHL Rookie of the Month
Buffalo Sabers goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who led rookie goaltenders with six wins in nine starts to help the Sabers come one point closer to a playoff spot, has been named a rookie of January in the NHL.
Luukkonen went 6-2-1 on the month with a 3.05 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. He made at least 25 saves in seven of the nine games, including more than 30 in five of them.
He made 39 saves (two shy of his career high) in a Jan. 7 overtime win over Minnesota to extend his personal winning streak to a career-best six games. It was the longest run by a Buffalo rookie since Ryan Miller also won six in a row from Jan. 24 to Feb. 24. 7, 2006.
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“It’s fun to see this growth,” Sabers coach Don Granato said Wednesday at KeyBank Center after morning practice before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes. “You have to have an open mind about a player like Upie and we had an open mind.
“We thought immediately at the start of the year that it would be good for him to potentially have games in Rochester, and you watch throughout camp and you make that decision based on what you see and in the camp, then things roll in. You can plan anything you want in the offseason, but we know that once the regular season starts you have to read and react, and read and react on Ukko-Pekka was pretty easy. “
After taking over from injured Eric Comrie, Luukkonen went 6-2 in December and is Buffalo’s first rookie goaltender with six or more wins in consecutive calendar months since Don Edwards in February and March 1978. He is the first rookie goaltender to do this in the NHL since Jordan Binnington of St. Louis in February and March 2019.
Luukonen’s 13 wins are tied for second among NHL rookie goaltenders with Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner, and he can move into that spot on his own Wednesday night. The leader is 19-year-old Logan Thompson of Vegas.
Luukkonen is the first Saber to win Rookie of the Month since winger Victor Olofsson was named in December 2019. Luukkonen beat Calgary goaltender Dan Vladar (5-0-1, 2.63/0.908), Nashville center Juuso Parssinen (2-10-12 in 13 GP), Seattle center Matty Beniers (6-5-11 in 13 GP), Winnipeg center Cole Perfetti (1-8-9 in 14 GP) and Columbus right-winger Kirill Marchenko (8-0-8 in 16 GP) for the honor.
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