The Buffalo Sabres are in the home stretch of the 2014-2015 NHL season. After compiling a 16-37-4 record, the Sabres have just 25 games left to play this season. The Sabres have a hold of last place in the NHL for the moment with a six point gap in the standings between themselves and the Edmonton Oilers.
Sabres’ GM Tim Murray gave Sabres fans something to get excited about last week when he acquired Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf from the Winnipeg Jets. Bogosian had an impressive Sabres’ debut making his physical presence known in Buffalo’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Kane will provide a spark to the Sabres’ offense but an injury will keep him out of the lineup until next season.
Kaleta and Gorges both being evaluated for lower body injuries that they've been trying to play through. Not sounding good for either guy.
— Paul Hamilton (@pham1717) February 15, 2015
The goal for the Sabres’ final 25 games will be to flip pending unrestricted free agents for assets to bolster the on-going rebuild and for the remaining roster to give a good effort to close out the season. Buffalo will need to move forward without defenseman Josh Gorges and forward Patrick Kaleta who will both miss an extended period of time due to injury.
[See Also: Breaking Down the Buffalo Sabres’ Newest Acquisitions]
Gorges Faces Possible Season-Ending Injury
Numerous reports suggest that Gorges has been battling through a nagging injury. Gorges’ injury has been described as a lower-body injury and there is some uncertainty on how long he will be out of the lineup. Some have speculated that Gorges could miss the remainder of the season but he will seek further medical opinions before he and the Sabres make any final decisions.
Gorges came to the Buffalo Sabres this summer from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second round pick in 2016. The veteran began his NHL career by inking a deal with the San Jose Sharks in 2002. The defenseman scored one goal and 10 points in 96 games with the Sharks.
He was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in 2007 in a deal involving former Sabres’ captain Craig Rivet. According to Hockey-Reference.com, Gorges spent eight seasons in Montreal where he scored 13 goals and 88 points in 464 games. Gorges has just six assists in 46 games since joining the Sabres but this diminished production is largely a byproduct of Buffalo’s offensive woes this season.
Observation: Josh Gorges' raw strength is impressive. Hits guys really hard without effort.
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) February 11, 2015
A native of Kelowna, British Columbia, Gorges was sought after by the Sabres for his leadership qualities and character. Gorges was a fan favorite in Montreal. This status came to fruition for number of reasons including Gorges’ strong passion for his city and his teammates.
The veteran rarely takes a shift off, he always finishes his checks, and he is a fierce competitor. Looking forward, Gorges’ intangibles should prove to be very valuable to the Sabres. Buffalo will rely heavily upon veteran leadership in the coming years to mentor the talented crop of young prospects within the Sabres’ system.
Kaleta to Miss 4-6 Weeks
Sabres’ forward Patrick Kaleta recently had surgery to repair a lower-body injury and is expected to miss the next four to six weeks. Kaleta is no stranger to controversy. His reputation as an agitator has been earned over the years by playing a hard-nose and edgy brand of hockey.
Kaleta’s value to the Sabres lies in his physical presence and in his ability to draw his opponents into penalties by getting under their skin. Unfortunately for the Sabres, Kaleta has crossed the line on several occasions. Kaleta is a repeat offender when it comes to play worthy of punishment by the league and an extended suspension last season put him in hot water with the Sabres.
It should be in the NHL rule book that Kaleta's opponents NEVER get a instigator.
— Steve Warne (@TSNSteve) February 11, 2015
The veteran’s antics led him to fall out of favor with Buffalo during the 2013-2014 season. Kaleta was suspended for 10 games in October 2013 which pushed former Sabres GM Darcy Regier to put Kaleta on waivers. After clearing waivers, Kaleta was assigned to the Rochester Americans but soon would suffer a torn ACL that ended his season.
Since then, Kaleta has worked hard to change his game and play a different role in the NHL. The forward still finishes his checks, draws penalties, and gets under the skin of his opponents but he has played less edgy game than he has in the past. Despite this adjustment, Kaleta has struggled to contribute much on offense. He plays with a lot of heart but, in 33 games this season, Kaleta has just three assists.
Kaleta is in the final year of his three year contract with the Sabres. Tim Murray has said he is seeking assets for pending unrestricted free agents. However, with Kaleta’s injury and lack of production, Murray will likely have a difficult time finding a trade partner for the veteran agitator.
[See Also: Chris Stewart Starting to Shine As Trade Deadline Approaches]