Buffalo has been rolling right along and they’re within one point in the standings of locking down a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. What’s made that all the more amazing of late is that they’ve been doing it without all-world goalie Ryan Miller the last few games as he’s out with an upper body injury.
While the Sabres have kept moving right along thanks to the solid play of Jhonas Enroth, if the Sabres are going to be a dangerous team in the playoffs, they’ll need Miller in goal and need him to be as good as he’s capable of playing. Fortunately for the Sabres, Miller’s condition is improving and he’s practicing with the team and appears to be heading towards getting a start this weekend.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 AM in Buffalo had this report from Sabres practice:
It seemed as though the teammates shooting at Miller weren’t letting up or aiming low, so Miller presumably is getting closer and closer to making a return. After practice, head coach Lindy Ruff said that Miller felt good after the practice session. When asked if Miller would be good enough to backup at least on Friday against Philadelphia, Ruff told reporters that Miller may even be good enough to start. He then quickly added that they wouldn’t make that call just yet.
“There’s no doubt that he is going to play before the season ends,” Ruff remarked about Miller.
Whether that means we see Miller jump in in a relief effort either Friday or Saturday in Columbus it remains to be seen. It can’t be ruled out we could see Miller get a start against the Blue Jackets but ideally Lindy Ruff wants to see what Miller’s got before the playoffs kick off next week.
It would also help for Buffalo to lock up a playoff spot as soon as possible. The Sabres just need to earn a point to do that be it through a victory or just by making it to overtime, they’ll be in the playoffs. If Buffalo has to go into Saturday’s game in a must-point situation, Ruff might have a difficult decision to make whether to go with the healthy Enroth or the fresh off an injury Miller.
Who are we kidding here? If Miller is healthy enough to play, he’d get the call there no matter what.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)
The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.
Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.
As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.
More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.
That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.
(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)