The Buffalo Sabres came into this season with big expectations, but their goals are whittling down to the same ones they had midway through 2010-11: simply claw their way into the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils are likely to be one of those “bubble” teams, so dropping a 3-1 loss to them cannot feel good.
The turning point?
Then again, the Sabres haven’t felt very good since they took a four-game winning streak into Boston on Nov. 12. Call it an easy narrative if you’d like, but times have been pretty lean since Milan Lucic clobbered Ryan Miller.
Since then, the Sabres have gone 7-11-3 to drop their overall record to 17-16-3. Buffalo went from second place in the Northeast Division and fourth in the East before that collision to fourth in their division and 11th in the conference today.
Who’s to blame?
The Versus gang pointed a finger at Miller and he’s certainly been disappointing, but it’s a team-wide concern. Despite some expensive should-be enhancements, their offense is inconsistent, their defense is as lax as its ever been and, yes, their goalie isn’t earning his big contract.
It’s tough to say what they really need to do – unless you’re in the subset who believes the team should make the drastic move of trading Miller – so improvement will have to come from within.
(Unless the Sabres decide to fire Lindy Ruff, the league’s longest tenured coach in the NHL, of course.)
Desperate for a win and hosting the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, the Minnesota Wild be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a second straight game.
“No Spurgeon tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said this morning. “He’s not ready.”
Spurgeon has already missed one game, Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Dallas. He suffered a “deep bruise” Saturday in St. Louis, and his status for this Saturday’s game against Boston is uncertain.
The Wild are also missing d-man Jonas Brodin, currently on injured reserve with a broken foot.
That’s two significant injuries on the back end, as Spurgeon and Brodin each average over 20 minutes in ice time.
In a related story, Ryan Suter played a season-high 33:15 against the Stars, while AHL call-up Mike Reilly was out there for just 12:27.
Related: Yeo was ‘disappointed’ to see Hoppy the rabbit holding a ‘YEO MUST GO’ sign
Perhaps Joel Quenneville was right to storm out of Tuesday’s press conference after expressing frustration with a disallowed goal.
On Thursday, Quenneville told reporters the NHL didn’t agree with the call made during Chicago’s 2-0 loss to San Jose — a decision in which Brandon Mashinter’s tally was wiped out, after officials judged Dennis Rasmussen had interfered with Martin Jones.
Mashinter’s disallowed goal came just days after Chicago was on the wrong end of another overturned marker. Last Thursday the ‘Hawks had one during an eventual win over Arizona, a call that sent Quenneville into histrionics on the bench.
Coach Q said storming out of Tuesday’s postgame presser was a culmination of calls going against his club, adding that the league provided a more detailed explanation of how and why these decisions are being made.
“I just think, we had a couple of occurrences in a short amount of time so obviously a little frustration there,” Quenneville said, per ESPN. “But we did speak to the league and got some [clarification] on the play.
“I just think there’s education across the board and you have a lot of people in the middle of the process making the decisions. As long as we’re getting right is what we’re looking for.”
From our friends at CSN Chicago:
Artemi Panarin will miss his second consecutive game due to illness and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the United Center.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Panarin’s illness is “hopefully not long term, but he’s definitely out tonight.” Quenneville added that it’s comparable to what ailed Jonathan Toews prior to the All-Star break. Toews played through his illness for about a week but finally had to sit out the third period of the Blackhawks’ Jan. 26 game at Carolina. Toews also missed the All-Star weekend due to that illness and was suspended against Colorado on Feb. 2.
Panarin has 18 goals and 34 assists in 56 games, his 52 points by far the most among NHL rookies. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin is a distant second with 38.
This morning, Richard Panik skated in Panarin’s spot with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane.
Christian Ehrhoff has cleared waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
The Kings made the 33-year-old defenseman available yesterday. It’s expected he’ll be assigned to AHL Ontario, with 23-year-old d-man Kevin Gravel getting called up.
“Nothing wrong with Christian Ehrhoff,” coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Wednesday. “We’re not exactly world beaters here. We don’t have the best defense in the league or the best team in the league. We’re trying to get better in a hurry.”
In addition to the Ehrhoff news, goalie Peter Budaj has been added to the Kings’ roster on the NHL’s media website, meaning Jonathan Quick (reportedly “day-to-day” with an injury sustained Tuesday in Boston) could miss some time.