Published by hockeybuzz.com, 12-05-2016
At least it's not the Eastern Conference Finals, right Sabres fans? The litany of injuries to the Buffalo Sabres' defense corps, is eerily reminiscent of the 2006 ECF when Buffalo went into Game-7 against the Carolina Hurricanes with only two regular defensemen in the lineup. The Sabres were already heading into the game without regulars Henrik Tallinder, Dmitry Kalinin and Teppo Numminen but they soon found out that they'd be without Jay McKee as well. The two remaining regulars--Brian Campbell and Toni Lydman--were joined on the blueline by Rory Fitzpatrick, Doug Janik, Jeff Jillson and rookie Nathan Paetsch.
How that team managed to keep it close with that d-corps, as in a 2-2 tie before the 'Canes scored the game-winner on a powerplay goal halfway through the third period, is almost beyond comprehension.
Ten year's later and it's "Holy flashbacks, Batman!"
The rash of injuries plaguing the Sabres this year happened a bit earlier than the ECF but it's plaguing the team none the less. The injuries up-front, most notably that of Jack Eichel's high ankle sprain, have been well documented but the d-corps is now getting hit hard.
Off-season trade acquisition Dmitry Kulikov missed the opener because of a back injury, came back for 12 games but has been out of the lineup to allow his back to heal properly. He's close to returning but it won't be tonight. Zach Bogosian's out with a lower body injury and he's still at least a couple of weeks away.
Kulikov and Bogosian were replaced by Rochester Americans call-ups Justin Falk and Taylor Fedun who've played admirably for the Sabres.
Yesterday the team announced that Josh Gorges will be out of the lineup for weeks with a fractured foot. Gorges took a shot off of his foot in Buffalo's win against the NY Rangers on Thursday and missed Saturday's matinee vs. the Boston Bruins. The Sabres were looking for a left-handed d-man and went all the way west to call up Brendan Guhle from his Prince George Cougars junior club. Guhle had an impressive NHL debut in the loss against the Bruins.
It was learned on Sunday that Fedun will be sidelined with a shoulder injury so the Sabres once again had to tap into the Amerks roster giving the call to 27 yr. old Eric Burgdoefer and will have him on the third pairing with Falk.
Not much has been said about Burgdoerfer save for the Sabres signed him to a two-way NHL contract this off-season and he was in Rochester. He's played in 22 games for the Amerks with seven assists and 24 penalty minutes. But with a little research we find that his has been a long, determined journey to the NHL.
The 6'1", 207 lb. East Setauket, NY native and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate has had a long journey that started with the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors. In the 2013-14 season he posted 22 points (11+11) in 67 games while also getting a three game stint in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons (EDM.) When Condors head coach Troy Mann was hired by the Hershey Bears (WSH,) he remembered Burgdoerfer and brought him to PA.
“When I got the head coaching job at Hershey," Mann told Desiree Keegan of the Village Times Herald, "I felt that if we were going to sign depth players for us, I preferred players I either coached against or knew personally, and I was pretty adamant about getting 'Burgy' under contract.”
Burgdoerfer joined the Washington organization hand had a brief three-game stint with their ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, before getting the call to Hershey for good. Mann had high praise for Burgdoerfer, “He’s a real hard-working character kid," he told Keegan, "and became a vital part of our team."
After appearing in 58 games for Hershey in 2014-15 he was re-signed by the Bears and posted 20 points (6+14) in 71 regular season games while also helping them reach the 2016 Calder Cup Finals where they lost to the Lake Erie Monsters (CLB.) Ironically, Burgdoerfer will be paired with Falk who was a key member of the Monsters 4-0 sweep of Hershey in the Finals.
Burgdoerfer is big but also can skate well according to Mann, and was a mainstay on the Bears penalty kill and maybe more importantly, Mann also said that he just continues to get better. "I felt real good leaving Washington in September, when you had guys like Barry Trotz taking notice of him during training camp there," he told Ted Leone of pennlive.com back in May, 2015. Mann had a notion that Burgdoerfer would earn himself an NHL contract like former Bears' Julien Brouillette and Steve Oleksy, two players who'd also spent time in the ECHL and sure enough it happened.
"Their work ethic and their drive to get better is so good that they've earned themselves NHL deals," is how Mann put it to Leone.
"He continued to follow his dream like nobody I’ve ever seen before,” his mother Jane Burgdoerfer told Keegan in the Village Time piece just after her son signed his first NHL contract. “I don’t know anybody that’s worked harder for their goal. His focus and determination has been unwavering."
Jane Burgdoerfer is a big Sabres fan and according to Keegan her son Eric will have a "built-in fanbase" should he get the start on Tuesday versus the Edmonton Oilers. “I would go to Sabres games as a kid," Jane told Keegan. "I have a big, extended family, and they’re out of their minds. We’re all huge Sabres fans. This is the biggest thing that could ever hit Buffalo.”
But first things first. Eric Burgdoerfer will be making his NHL debut against a sleeping bear in the Washington Capitals. Alexander Ovechkin and Co. haven't been themselves so far this season as they sit 18th in the league in goals-for/game. Last year they finished second and it's only a matter of time before they wake up.
Regardless of the opponent, this is Burgdoerfer's NHL debut, just like it was for the 19 yr. old ,Guhle against the rival Boston Bruins on Saturday.
And that's where the Sabres d-corps is at right now.