Buffalo has found their way back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference. After spending the majority of the season out of the mix for the playoffs, the Sabres are very much back into it. The Sabres have been able to do it without last year’s leading scorer Derek Roy for most of the season but with the games dwindling and the pressure on to get into the playoffs, times are getting tougher health-wise.
Tonight’s crucial game against Pittsburgh will see the Sabres going to battle without a number of key players. Leading scorer Thomas Vanek (flu), Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, and Mike Grier are all out for tonight with other nagging injuries. Taking their spots in the lineup are Mark Mancari and today’s call-ups from the AHL Luke Adam and veteran Mark Parrish.
These issues pop up from time to time for any team, but when you’re caught in the midst of a playoff race against a difficult team like the Penguins, it can feel like the stars are aligning against you to keep you out of the playoffs. Coach Lindy Ruff has done well with his team of late as they’ve been resilient and a pain in the neck for opponents to deal with.
Making it all the more amazing is that superstar goalie Ryan Miller hasn’t been other-worldly good this season, just pretty damn good. While Miller was busy leading Team USA and winning the Vezina Trophy last year, his numbers this year are still good but not quite what you’d hope for out of the guy you’re asking to start virtually every game for you. With a .914 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average Miller ranks tied for 24th in save percentage and 31st in goals against average.
If Miller can show what he’s capable of while these injuries keep the Sabres shorthanded the confidence boost it’ll give to the team could be enough to keep them locked into a playoff spot.