The Buffalo Sabres have gotten off to a rough start in 2016-17 due to some key injuries. Many hockey experts picked the Sabres to return to the playoffs this season. However, these early season injuries could greatly impact Buffalo’s chances for post-season play. It’s a critical time for Buffalo.
Holding the Fort: Surving until the Buffalo Sabres Injuries Heal
The Franchise is Down
It’s hard to come up with worse news right before the start of the season for the Sabres than to lose Jack Eichel to a significant injury. Eichel suffered a high ankle sprain in a practice, just a day before the Sabres season opener.
The soon to be 20-year old center led the Sabres in goals scored last year (24) and was second in points (56). Clearly not having the 2015 second overall pick for a number of weeks is a crippling injury.
NHL teams hold injury information about their players very close to the vest. There have seen a number of reports where Eichel could miss anywhere between four to eight weeks. If Eichel can return to the lineup prior to Thanksgiving that would be a major win for the Sabres.
While Eichel will still have a major impact on this season, it would have been nice to see what the kid from Massachusetts could have done this playing a full 82 game schedule.
More Injury Woes
Being without Eichel to start the season would be enough of a hit for Buffalo. However, the Sabres also lost Evander Kane to injury in their first game of the season. Kane cracked three ribs when he crashed hard into the boards in the Sabres opening night contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
Kane who has been a huge disappointment for the Sabres on and off the ice could not make it through opening night without suffering an injury. The 2009 fourth overall pick has not played more than 65 games in a season the least three years. It’s estimated Kane will miss four to six weeks.
Kane did score 20 goals in 65 games for the Sabres last season. Buffalo needs him to contribute this year if they are going to make the playoffs. Being without both Eichel and Kane to start the year is a major hit to the offense for the Sabres.
This is a huge year for the 25-year old Kane. He is still very young and if he could get back to the production of the 2011-12 season where he scored 30 goals, his future could have a much different outlook. So far it looks like more of the same.
The Sabres need to hold the fort in terms of their record until they get Eichel and Kane back into the lineup. What will Buffalo’s record be on December 1st? So far the Sabres are 1-1-1 in their first three games.
The Sabres play 19 games between now and December 1st. Nine are at home and ten are on the road. The schedule is a bit favorable during this critical time for Buffalo. Ten of Buffalo’s next 19 games are against teams that did not make the playoffs last season.
While you can’t qualify for the NHL playoffs the first two months of the season, a team can certainly bury themselves and make their postseason odds a long shot. Buffalo has to make sure that doesn’t happen. During this time Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen and Robin Lehner need to put this team on their collective backs.
Main Photo: GLENDALE, AZ – JANUARY 18: (L-R) Ryan O’Reilly #90, Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Sam Reinhart #23 and Jack Eichel #15 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate after Eichel scored a second period power play goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)