Following the unofficial end of their playoff hopes (depending on who you talk to), the Buffalo Sabres responded on Tuesday night by putting up 4 goals against Henrik Lundqvist and the powerhouse New York Rangers. The proceedings also saw Justin Bailey finally grab his first career NHL goal – a game to remember for sure.
Buffalo has themselves a day off before heading out to Chicago on Wednesday night, where they head to the United Center to take on the Blackhawks. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN and puck should drop shortly after 8:30 PM.
Let’s dive a little deeper to see some quick hits.
- The injury struggle is real.
We have spent so much of this NHL season pretty much complaining about how unlucky this Buffalo Sabres team has been. It started with Jack Eichel’s twisted ankle and then we had the weird Dmitry Kulikov back injury where he fell backwards into the half wall – that was just the preseason.
Since then, we’ve seen Kulikov go back down a few times, Ennis popped his groin, O’Reilly’s appendix apparently got bored of hanging out inside his body, Carrier injured his hand, Kane had that painful looking knee injury and I’m sure I’m missing some more.
But wait, there’s more!
On Saturday afternoon in Boston, 2016 claimed its final Sabres victim – Johan Larsson.
Dan Bylsma confirmed that Johan Larsson’s timetable for a return is set at 16 weeks, following surgery to relocate his elbow and wrist. This tells us that Larsson’s season has been lost and is officially over. Tough break for Larsson, who had been excelling in his role as a 3rd line checking center, mostly with Foligno and Gionta.
There were also rumblings that Larsson’s trade value could push Buffalo to move him at the March deadline, but that discussion is now moot.
Dan Bylsma spoke before tonight’s game and confirmed that we will see Zemgus Girgensons step up in the absence of Larsson, and maybe this is the spark that Girgensons has been looking for.
Safe to assume, with the season seemingly in the balance and the offense still sputtering, we will see more of prospects Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste and maybe even Alex Nylander in the coming weeks.
The Sabres also recalled defenseman Taylor Fedun to take the place of injured defenseman Josh Gorges. I wish I could be making all of this up right now.
Side note, yeah I know..Nylander seems like a long shot but think about this – Nylander is dominating the World Juniors and is having a decent year in his first professional season in Rochester. Maybe giving Nylander a taste of the NHL would do him some good, kind of a reward for the hard work he has put in. What is the worst that’ll happen – he’ll score goals?
Either way, the Sabres need something to break their way for once. As of December 31, according to ManGamesLost.com, the Buffalo Sabres rank 4th in the National Hockey League with 170 man games lost. Ouch.
- First of many.
For the first time in 12 career games, Justin Bailey found himself on the score sheet.
From the top – what a goal. Bailey read the play PERFECTLY, accelerated through with the puck and got himself in the perfect spot to execute the perfect five-hole shot.
What a first goal, just based off the shot itself but getting at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers and on Henrik Lundqvist – a hockey player probably can not imagine a better first career goal, aside from it being a Stanley Cup winner but shhhh, let me have this right now.
With the way Bailey plays, despite only getting 10 – 12 minutes a night, he should see an increase in opportunities now that he has kicked down that proverbial goal door. We even saw it last night in the Rangers game. Bailey drove hard into the Sabres offensive zone and put a clean shot off the pipe, after beating Lundqvist.
Bailey used his speed & nearly had his 2nd of the night. pic.twitter.com/eg5ViOsqQQ
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 4, 2017
Many fans forget that Bailey still is a prospect, despite how much we have seen him in the past couple years. Bailey is a 12-game NHL veteran, so there is a lot of development still to happen but we might be seeing that development right before our eyes.
- Kane’s Value
Evander Kane’s trade value continues to spike as the season progresses. Just judging through the eye test, it appears that Kane continues to position himself closer and closer to the goal mouth which in turn is resulting in more prime scoring chances.
Tuesday night was no different.
Sam Reinhart’s original shot on goal was corralled by Henrik Lundqvist, but it produced just enough of a rebound that a crashing Evander Kane was able to put home the rebound.
Another goal driving to the net for Kane. pic.twitter.com/dacvwC8mi3
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 4, 2017
Kane’s goal of the season goes in the books as his 9th in 14 games. That smell is his trade value rising – someone can have him if the price is right.
- Standings Update
Buffalo got themselves the big victory on Tuesday night, but they’re still in dead last in the Atlantic Division.
That home-and-home loss this past weekend still looms horribly large for the Sabres but a good stretch of hockey could get them right back in the swing of things.
- Tweet(s) of Game
— Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) January 3, 2017
Side note – what the hell are you thinking with this patch placement? I am going to go vomit.
NHL 100th anniversary patch. pic.twitter.com/XWDg5Ig1Ux
— David Williams (@Hockeyequipmgr) January 3, 2017