Friday, October 20, 2017

Injuries and illnesses continue for Buffalo

Published by, 10-19-2017

The Sabres came back from their four-game road West Coast road trip limping figuratively and literally. They finished the trip with a 1-2-1 record which, regardless of the progress they made during the trip still contains three losses. For a team that started out the season 0-2-1, that doesn't help in the points department all that well.

They also came back with a couple of injuries to players who, although not anywhere near the caliber of Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, both of whom were injured last season, were contributing in their own way.

If you recall Eichel was injured on the practice before the season opener and missed 21 games. Kane crashed heavily into the boards in the opener and missed 10 games with ineffectiveness affecting the next 11. This year Kane leads the team in scoring with 10 points (5+5) in seven games while Eichel is right behind at nine points (2+7.)

Team defense has been a problem for the team this year so far as a defense-corps that was bolstered by new GM Jason Botterill lost two veteran d-men in Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk prior to the season. It's not to say that Buffalo's defensive woes would be non-existent with those two in the lineup but their absence changes the corps as players were placed into roles above their pay-grade.

Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu is averaging over 19 minutes a game playing on the second pair and his d-partner Matt Tennyson is averaging over 17 minutes. The defense was so bad through Games 2&3 of the schedule that rookie Victor Antipin was moved to the press box in favor of the much maligned Josh Gorges, who attention to the defensive aspects of the game helped stabilize a situation that was spiraling out of control

Bogosian and Falk remain out with the latter in injured reserve. Bogosian was expected to be on the second pairing while Falk had earned a spot in the top-six based upon a solid performance last season and an equally solid follow up at training camp. Word from Housley's after practice presser today, via John Vogl of The Buffalo News, is that Bogosian is "week-to-week" as is Falk although Housley did say that he's begun skating.

Also of note, Gorges was not on the ice today and is "day-to-day," according to Housley. "There's a lot of guys that got banged up on this road trip," said the coach, "Josh is another one that has a lower-body injury, so we'll see tomorrow."

The news is not so good for fourth-line center Jacob Josefson, who was seen in a walking boot. Josefson was skating 11:01/game and was the leading forward on the penalty kill at 2:28/game before he went down against the Anaheim Ducks. Housley listed him as "more of a week-to-week right now."

Forward Zemgus Girgensons was the next forward to go down as he skated just over two minutes before taking a shot to the foot against the Vegas Golden Knights. The top-nine forward's career had been rejuvenated under Housley and was skating top-six minutes besides centers Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. Before going down he had three points in seven games which put him on a pace to surpass his 34 total points from the previous two years under Dan Bylsma. Girgensons was also tied for the team lead in plus/minus at plus-2 with Jason Pominville.

Housley listed Girgensons as "day-to-day" saying that the shot Girgensons took is :taking a little bit longer to heal right now."

The injury to Josefson opened the door for Matt Moulson to remain in the lineup and if Girgensons remains sidelined that would mean another opportunity for Seth Griffith. Both, however, have been largely ineffective while playing.

Forward Kyle Okposo suffered an illness in San Jose', the first game of the Sabres road trip and missed two more games before playing against Vegas. Perhaps he gave what he had to goaltender Robin Lehner who missed practice because of an illness. Housley said that Lehner is "feeling a bit under the weather."

Chad Johnson has proven to be a capable backup and will be in net should Lehner still feel ill but who would back him up if Lehner doesn't dress is an interesting situation. Goalie Linus Ullmark has proven more than capable but it would seem as if the Sabres want him seeing as many pucks as possible this season in Rochester, which should be his last in the AHL.

Ullmark's backup is Adam Wilcox, who has never played in an NHL game. The former Tampa Bay Lightning sixth-round draft pick could get the call should Lehner be incapable of dressing for the game and the team feel that it's more beneficial for Ullmark to play against the Charlotte Checkers tomorrow night rather than have him sit on the bench in Buffalo.

Ryan Vinz, who was one of an NHL-record nine goalies to have for Buffalo in the 2013-14 season worked out as an emergency goalie for today's practice. The Sabres video tech was welcomed to center ice by the team after practice as "Vnizanity" returned to Buffalo.

For posterity's sake, here's the list of goalies who dressed for the Sabres in '13-'14:

1. Ryan Miller
2. Jhonas Enroth
3. Ryan Vinz
4. Jaroslav Halak
5. Michal Neuvirth
6. Nathan Lieuwen
7. Andrey Makarov
8. Matt Hackett
9. Connor Knapp

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