If this was a story, the Sabres would be at a critical turning point. Could this be the darkest hour for the Sabres, when it looks like things are at their worst?
The Sabres are 7 points back in the Eastern Conference now, in the 11th spot. And just when you think the Sabres are getting healthy, they take some more hits. Vanek took a puck to the jaw requiring him to finish the Islanders game with a full cage. He should still play, but it’s scary. Regehr is likely out for the next four games and Leopold has been battling the flu. Almost as a symbol of the dark times, we also have the MSG/Time Warner cable dispute.
The Sabres front office has maintained a calm demeanor and insisted that nothing drastic should be done or will be done. Terry Pegula has reiterated that it’s all about injuries and that the Sabres can’t really even move anyone until they get back to some semblence of health. From The Buffalo News:
“What everybody is missing is that I’ve been carrying around 167 man games,” he said by telephone Thursday evening. “Forget about the season. I’m talking about the last 25 games. We’ve had 18 players go down. It’s like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who’s healthy?
“My attitude now is, ‘Let’s put Humpty [Dumpty] back together again,’ ” Pegula said. “I want our players to know that I thought we had a pretty good hockey team until all this happened. Let’s paste it back together and start a new season.”
This was before Friday night’s Maple Leafs game win and the loss against the New York Islanders. The team came out guns blazing against Toronto but not quite as energetic against the Islanders. As a start to a new season within a season, it’s not wholly inspiring. (Of course, blaming injuries for the losses is starting to get old for fans.)
Next on the agenda is a 5-game road trip that ends before the NHL All-Star break, kicked off by a game against the always tough Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are 7-3 in their last 10 and looking for a record 15th consecutive home win. Not to mention the Wings are 18-2-1 against the Sabres in their last 22 games AND 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. Oy.
This 5-game road trip will be crucial to the start of the Sabres “new season” and hopes of getting back into the playoff mix. With games against the Red Wings, Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis and New Jersey, it won’t be a cakewalk. Each of those teams is 6th or better in their respective conference except for Winnipeg who sits at 10th in the East (just above our Sabres). The Sabres have their work cut out for them.
Will the Sabres dig themselves a hole they can’t get out of or will they get back in the race? We’ll start to find out tonight.