Sabres Depleted But Ready
Tonight, the Buffalo Sabres are back on the ice facing off against the new division rival New York Islanders!
The Sabres last played hockey on January 31st, fifteen days ago. Since then, nine Buffalo players and their coach have been in the NHL's Covid Protocol (protocol) program. That many players being out caused seven Sabres games to be postponed. Some of the players are back and the NHL has cleared the team to play again.
It has been a week since a Sabres player has been put into protocol. At this morning's skate there were several players on the ice who had once been in the protocol. Rasmus Dahlin and Taylor Hall are two of them but they were already cleared. McCabe, Montour, and Rieder were back on the ice for the first time since entering protocol. All three of them were on the list due to positive test results and each have said they suffered symptoms for a varying number of days.
Still no sign of Rasmus Ristolainen, Dylan Cozens, Curtis Lazar, and Casey Mittelstadt who are assumed to still be in protocol. Also not skating this morning were Sam Reinhart, C.J. Smith, and Jacob "Peabo" Bruson. As per coach Krueger, who was out there with his team this morning, Reinhart is nursing a minor injury and will hopefully play tonight.
Many Sabres fans have been clamoring for Eichel and Skinner to be reunited. Tonight may be your night. The lines at this morning's skate looked like this:
If tonight Skinner bags his first goal of the season while alongside Eichel, win or lose, that is all Buffalo will hear about tomorrow and maybe rightfully so. Maybe.
No confirmation as of yet but the talk is that Ullmark will start in net. The defense has five of its normal top six lining up but it nonetheless looks like there is a big hole in it. That hole is the absence of Risto. You don't know how much you'll miss a thing until it's gone.
The Sabres have played ten games this season, one more than New Jersey who has the fewest games played in the division. Less games means less points which means the Sabres, once again, sit in the basement with an even record. Tonight's opponent has played thirteen games and has accumulated fifteen points. They sit in a tie with two other teams, both of whom also have thirteen games and fifteen points.
On Saturday, the Islanders toppled the division leading Bruins by a 4-2 score keeping them in the hunt. With the first quarter of the season coming to a close for most teams, the race for a coveted playoff spot is still very tight. Buffalo needs to make every game count.
For the fourteen day period beginning today and ending on the last day of the month. Buffalo is scheduled to play nine games. That's an unthinkable pace and it doesn't change much in March. In a normal season, a team would scream bloody murder if it were given such a schedule. In these times though, players, teams and fans alike just want some hockey. And so it goes.
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