When Buffalo Sabres center Johan Larsson crashed into the boards and lay there in the corner, we knew it wasn’t good and on the replay we watches as his arm was awkwardly behind him with the full force of his body smashing into the wall. Larsson got to his skates and made his way off the ice wincing a bit with his body cock-eyed from the crash.
The Sabres reported that Larsson will miss the rest of the season with a fractured elbow and wrist and with top-two center Ryan O’Reilly also out, a once overflowing center position is now being manned by players drafted as center but who were moved to wing because of the glut.
Top center Jack Eichel remained there but after O’Reilly found himself in the hospeital after an emergency appendectomy on Christmas Day, Sam Reinhart was moved back to center. And with Larsson out for the year, Zemgus Girgensons was moved to the middle as well. Bothe are former first round picks and both have been playing mostly on the wing for head coach Dan Bylsma ever since he took charge last season.
The center depth chart for tonight’s nationally televised game on NBCSN looks like this—Eichel, Reinhart, Girgensons, Derek Grant--and they’ll be saddled with the task of taking on two of the leagues best teams in the NY Rangers at 7 p.m. tonight and the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. On the road, no-less.
But, that’s how it goes. You know, the next man up and all that jazz.
Here’s the projected lines for tonight via Chris Ryndak of sabres.com:
Marcus Foligno, Eichel, Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane, Reinhart, Justin Bailey
William Carrier, Girgensons, Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers, Grant, Matt Moulson
As of right now the Sabres have not called up a forward from Rochester to take the place of Larsson so they have no reserve forward.
Bylsma also had to do some juggling on defense as d-man Dmitry Kulikov is still out. Kulikov's is considered to be at least a top-four defenseman on the Sabres and with him out, Bylsma opted to go with a top-four from last season of Rasmus Ristolainen/Josh Gorges and Zach Bogosian/Jake McCabe. The third pairing features Cody Franson and Justin Falk according to Ryndak while he also states the backup goalie Anders Nilsson gets the start in net tonight.
The Sabres are limping into the Big Apple with a depleted roster and are also on the verge of a full-blown tailspin if they cannot find a way to pull one out at Madison Square Garden tonight. Coming into the contest the Sabres are 1-4-2 which dropped them to the bottom of the Eastern Conference as the curtains seem to be closing on a season that's not even half-way over.
It's a new calendar year and new opportunity to get a fresh start.
Whether that happens or not will take place in front of a national audience.
Eichel was furious after the loss in Boston on Saturday afternoon. And who could blame him?
Although it took him a while to get going, he did end up with a Buffalo's first and only goal very late in the second period which brought the team to with two. That would be all for Buffalo and after the game he took out his frustrations on his equipment and his duffle bag adding in some choice words to accent his frustrations.
Good for him. Good for the team. And good for us fans.
Although I do understand why some in the media always want to see what they consider proper decorum after a win or a loss, to hell with that. We saw enough of that during the Darcy Regier era and all it ever got us was a team that was easy to play against, a mediocre record and a country-club setting.
Here's a golf clap to that.
I wish the rest of the team was as pissed as Eichel. Maybe they'd have enough anger to go out there and play a game that screams "We're not taking it anymore."
This team needs a jolt. It needs passion.
Eichel is an elite talent that's on a losing team right now and he played that game against his hometown team with family and friends in attendance at TD Gardens. He was embarrassed and everyone of his teammates should have been embarrassed as well.
The Sabres are on a 1-4-2 slide and are sitting at the bottom of the conference. If Eichel's not happy with that and he took his frustrations out on inanimate objects, there's no reason for anyone to be miffed at that display.
In fact, I hope that passion rubs off on the rest of the team. Lord knows they could use it.