On the whole, October has been a series of scary tricks and few treats for the Buffalo Sabres.
Expectations on the Sabres were a mixed bag heading into the 2016-17 season. The team is on a trajectory for improvement. Some have set the bar at qualifying for the playoffs to define a successful season. While this isn’t out of the question, the team had a difficult start that will factor into the Sabres’ postseason hopes.
October was scary for the Sabres for a variety of reasons. A string of injuries sidelined some key members of the team. Meanwhile, the team has had some struggles that cost them points in the standings. Despite the difficulties of the early season, Buffalo has started to get back on track as the team moves into a new month of hockey.
Buffalo Sabres Key Injuries
The injury bug has caused havoc for the Sabres this season. Forward Kyle Okposo and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov both were sidelined with injuries to start the season. Okposo suffered a knee injury and Kulikov suffered a lower-body bruise. Both players missed the opener in Buffalo but they have since returned to the lineup. In addition, goaltender Robin Lehner recently missed two games due to a stomach ailment.
Prior to the season opener, the team was practicing and young star forward Jack Eichel fell awkwardly in a lot of pain. The team later announced that Eichel had a high ankle sprain and that he would be out of action for approximately four to six weeks. Eichel was poised for a big season but this is on hold until he recovers.
During the season opener, Buffalo endured another difficult injury. Forward Evander Kane was skating full speed and lost an edge, causing him to crash into the boards. Kane was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and suffered three broken ribs. His status remains week-to-week but a recent report indicates that Kane will return to action in mid-November.
Halloween Comes Early for Buffalo
The Sabres are missing some important personnel but good teams, playoff teams, find ways to overcome adversity. Buffalo had trouble accomplishing this at times in October. Through eight games, the Sabres have compiled a record of 3-3-2. Despite some early struggles, the team is just one point out of the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.
Buffalo gave fans a scare in back-to-back difficult losses in October. At a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Sabres held a three-goal lead heading into the third period. However, Buffalo vanquished this lead and lost the game in a shootout. In another tough loss, the Sabres returned home after a four-game road trip to face the Minnesota Wild. The Wild notched four goals and shutout the Blue and Gold in a game where Buffalo outshot Minnesota by a 38-to-22 margin.
Despite these difficulties, the Sabres have bounced back in their last two games. Buffalo has scored six goals during this span. The team has come away with two consecutive victories defeating the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets. The most impressive aspect of these two games has been the Sabres’ special teams. Buffalo scored two power-play goals against the Panthers and killed off six penalties against Winnipeg.
The Sabres had their share of difficulties in October. Despite some scary injuries and a few tough losses, the team has bounced back recently and brings a two-game winning streak into November. The team has a lot to prove and needs to continue to string wins together despite the absence of Eichel and Kane from the lineup. A stronger November is crucial to making the Sabres’ postseason dreams a reality.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW