Chances are the Sabres aren’t thrilled that just about the only thing they’re good at right now is getting injured. Buffalo currently has five players listed on injured reserve (Gerbe, Leino, Myers, Stuart, and Tropp), one that’s injured-ish, ie. not on the IR, but not playing (Ennis), and three players fresh off injuries as of last night (Boyes, Hecht, and Vanek). This isn’t the best news for a team that’s flirting hard with the floor of the Northeast division, and whose current claim to fame is a goalie who seems to be able to hand out penalties by giving opposing players dirty looks.
While whispers calling for the firing of coach Lindy Ruff and/or GM Darcy Regier grow louder, team president Ted Black continues to insist that their jobs are safe, and that the Sabres’ woes can be pinned on the constant parade of injuries. Unfortunately, owner Terry Pegula can’t throw money at injuries and make them go away (I think we all know that if that was possible, he’d have already done it).
Let’s take a stroll through the injuries that are keeping the Sabres on the bottom. Because surely it must be the injuries, right? Right?
Nathan Gerbe (C): Concussion – IR
Nathan Gerbe personifies the cruddy injury luck of the Sabres – he sustained a concussion in a hit from behind December 7th after just having come back from missing a game thanks to another injury. As of December 13th, Gerbe is on the IR for the concussion and there is no timeline for his return, although he is skating (albeit in a no-contact capacity). The missed game was due to some impromptu nose surgery from teammate Paul Gaustad’s skate in a December 2nd game against the Red Wings. It’s only fair to mention that Gerbe is a complete animal, as he skated off the ice without assistance after something that would reduce the rest of us to a screaming and/or tearful mess.
Ville Leino (C): Lower body – IR
Fresh off a one-game suspension for delivering an elbow to the head of Philadelphia’s Matt Read, Leino hurt something below the waist December 13th in a loss to the Senators. Foot? Knee? Leg? Groin? Whatever it is, Ruff says he’ll be out for weeks. That kind of timeline hints at something a little more serious than a simple ankle sprain or groin pull. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News has speculated that it may be a broken foot, which it certainly could be. It could be a lot of things. Regardless, the Sabres will be without Leino’s blistering average of 0.3 points per game for the foreseeable future.
Tyler Myers (D): Broken wrist – IR
Myers broke his wrist in mid-November, and after surgery and a month in a cast he may be back soon. Maybe. Or maybe not. He’s skating fine, but obviously surgery and immobilization aren’t good for strength or mobility. He may return at the end of this week (best case scenario), or in the new year. He’s been skating in practice with Gragnani, and seems to think he’s ready to come back but Ruff has been pretty clear that he’s not yet back to where he needs to be.
Colin Stuart (LW): Lower body – IR
Stuart was called up from the Rochester Amerks December 16th to fill holes in the Sabres’ lineup and managed to hurt himself the next day in a game against the Penguins. Another mysterious lower body injury has Stuart out at least a month. The extent of what we know – he was limping when he left the game. So it’s his foot. Or his knee. Or maybe his groin. Have I mentioned how forthcoming the Sabres are about injuries? Super awesome.
Corey Tropp (RW): Concussion – IR
Tropp, another Amerks callup, has been out with a concussion since a Kulikov hit in a December 9th game against the Panthers. There’s no timeline for his return, because concussions are jerks like that. He’s skating now, but no contact.
Tyler Ennis (LW): Ankle – Injured-ish
Ennis suffered a high-ankle sprain October 22nd, and returned to the lineup in early December after missing 17 games. He re-injured the ankle December 17th against the Penguins – the same game that knocked Colin Stuart out of the lineup. A high ankle sprain is a stretch or tear in the ligaments that actually hold the two bones in the lower leg together (want more info? Good thing I wrote about that), and like any sprain the key is not returning to action until it has healed. One would certainly hope that Ennis wasn’t rushed back at the cost of re-injury. For now he’s day-to-day, but he is skating. Last night he was listed as a scratch – hence injured-ish.
Brad Boyes (RW): Sprained Ankle – back as of last night
Boyes sprained his ankle in a game against the Bruins on November 23rd. He returned to the line-up last night for 15 minutes and an assist. He was skating like someone whose ankle was feeling pretty good. Expect him to be re-injured in a week. I’M KIDDING. But it’ll probably happen.
Jochen Hecht (C): Foot – back as of last night
The Sabres apparently like to get hurt together, and on December 9th against the Panthers Hecht kept concussed Corey Tropp company by blocking a shot with his foot. He hasn’t played since and until yesterday was said to be doing “nothing”. Two weeks of doing nothing seems indicative of something significant like a fracture, but seeing as how he’s back now either it wasn’t a fracture or they just hustled to get him back in action. Either way, he managed an assist on the Ehrhoff goal.
Thomas Vanek (LW): Upper body – back as of last night
In a true kick in the teeth, the Sabres lost their leading goal-scorer Thursday due to some previous injury he’s been trying to play through. Whatever this upper body issue is (possibly a shoulder), it apparently happened in that Pittsburgh game where the rest of the team also got hurt (FINE, it was just Ennis and Stuart). Interestingly enough, Vanek took a hit from James Neal in that game. He missed a couple of practices due to this upper body thing, and didn’t come back to the game for the third period on Thursday. He made it back to practice yesterday, and played 18 minutes last night. Maybe he’ll stick this time.
The bright spot in all of this Buffalo injury misery is that anyone who can hold a hockey stick and not fall down on skates will probably get a chance to play in Rochester at the very least. They’re hurting for players as Buffalo calls them up (then injures them), so they’ve been trolling the ECHL (and possibly local high schools and malls) for players.
This is a pretty miserable way to start the second half of the season for a team that dumped a crapload of money on expensive players in the offseason and managed to be on top of their division six weeks ago. They got a few players back this week, but they’re still hurting for manpower. It’s really too bad you can’t pay ankles, wrists, and mystery injuries to heal themselves. It’s also too bad that having that many injured players increases the temptation to rush guys back on the ice, which generally doesn’t end well. Just ask Tyler Ennis or Thomas Vanek about that, since they seem to have first-hand experience.