Jan 13, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT
Tonight in Buffalo, the Sabres will play their biggest game of the season. Lose to the Leafs and the club that took on millions and millions in payroll during the summer could fall seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
As it stands, the Sabres sit eight points back of seventh-place Toronto and five back of eighth-place Washington. The Capitals host the struggling Lightning tonight.
So where did it all go wrong for a team that many thought could compete for a Stanley Cup?
Ask Sabres owner Terry Pegula, the man who opened his enormous wallet to put this group together, and he points to one big factor — injuries.
“I have to believe we’re a better hockey team than we were last year,” Pegula told The Buffalo News yesterday evening. “We just didn’t have this massive, catastrophic injury problem. Put yourself in anybody’s place in the organization. How do you evaluate what’s going on?”
Speaking of last year, Buffalo’s record today (18-19-5) is the exact same as it was a year ago to this very day. And with a 3-2 win over Carolina at the First Niagara Center, the Sabres kicked off a remarkable 25-10-5 run and went on to clinch seventh spot in the East.
But let’s face it, that’s not likely to repeat itself.
Not that the Sabres are utterly incapable. It’s just, those things don’t happen very often. Otherwise they wouldn’t be remarkable. That’s how big a hole the Sabres are in. They’ll have to be “remarkable” to make the playoffs.
- Lightning ‘answer the challenge’ in Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final 16
- Vigneault: McDonagh was playing with a broken foot 16
- Bolts strike Stanley Cup Final berth thanks to Game 7 win over Rangers 69
- The Ducks got Kesler for a game like Saturday’s 32
- Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win 54
- DeBoer predicts ‘big bounce-back’ in San Jose 14
- Sabres name Bylsma head coach 46
- Lundqvist on Game 7: ‘You’re definitely nervous, but it comes down to teamwork’ 18
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue 56
- Stanley Cup Final to begin June 3 10
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (77)
- Bolts strike Stanley Cup Final berth thanks to Game 7 win over Rangers (69)
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks (66)
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue (56)
- On Kreider, and trying ‘to turn the other cheek’ (54)