It’s been a strenuous few weeks as a Sabres fan. Each game it seems like we finish the night a player short and another needs to be called up from Rochester. Finally, the time has come for players to begin to return to the line-up! Insert heavenly chorus of angels here.
A big name, which I believe has been much needed in the line up, is Mike Weber. He was a healthy scratch for much of the beginning of the season, playing twice when Marc-Andre Gragnani was a healthy scratch, for a total of three games. On November 16th, Weber suffered an upper body injury (ribs) putting him out of the line up until today.Obviously, this means we have to send a defenseman back to Rochester — Brayden McNabb. Wrong! Lindy Ruff spoke to the media on the decision to keep McNabb in tonight’s line-up and simply said, “I don’t feel like I’m forced to play Brayden. He’s earned a spot with the way he’s played.” Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Mike Weber, Brayden McNabb, Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera, Marc-Andre Gragnani — all healthy tonight. If we’re playing the who-sits-in-the-press-box-game, 100% of bets are on Gragnani, including mine.
Tonight is Mike Weber’s chance to be the guy the Sabres need, the stronger defenseman than Gragnani has been lately. His first three games of the season were rough without a point and -5, but now more than ever, he has a spot to fight for with McNabb and Gragnani nipping at his heels for that last spot in the starting line-up.
Paul Gaustad is also back tonight after missing three games with an upper body injury, as well. Patrick Kaleta has missed 7 games due to injury thus far and remains a game-time decision for tonight’s line up. If Kaleta plays, it appears Matt Ellis will be sitting. Paul “Chewie” Szczechura and Zack Kassian will stay.
While injuries have plagued the Sabres this season at 104 man games lost (prior to tonight’s game against Ottawa), they are not leading the NHL in that department. According to Sabres.com, they have had nine rookies play for the Sabres, one behind Philadelphia for the league lead. The rookies have put together a stunning 36 points (15+21), which ties Ottawa for secondmost in the league behind Edmonton (38).
Out of curiosity, I tallied up the injuries and man games lost for each team in the NHL this year. Unfortunately for me, that information wasn’t exactly kept track of in the format I was hoping for… This led me to spend about 6 hours last night pulling together the stats. The numbers are rough and potentially off by a couple of numbers, but have the basic information.
The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the league in Man Games Lost (MGL) this season at around 155. Long term injuries include Brian Strait (29), Dustin Jeffrey (24), Sidney Crosby (22), Zbynek Michalek (16), Tyler Kennedy (11), Richard Park (9), Brooks Orpik (8), Kris Letang (8), and Evgeni Malkin (7).
In second place, the Montreal Canadiens have 134 MGL, which they keep track of pretty well. With two players (Andre Markov and Ryan White) missing all of this season thus far, they count for 60 MGL alone. Other notable injuries include Chris Campoli (29), Andrei Kostitsyn (10), and Scott Gomez (8).
The Sabres rank third with 104 MGL. After tonight, if Kaleta does not play, the Sabres will collectively have 110 MGL.
In fourth comes the Florida Panthers at 102 MGL, who also track their man games lost. Mikael Samuelsson (20), Scottie Upshall (15), Marcel Goc (13), Scott Clemmensen (13), and Matt Bradley (12) make up the lengthiest injuries on the team.
And at fifth, we have the Calgary Flames with 99 MGL. Their most notable injuries to date have been Brett Carson (29), Brendan Morrison (16), Anton Babchuk (15), Mikael Backlund (14), and David Moss (14).
Beyond these five teams, the next seven have just 10 games distancing themselves from each other (between 64 and 74 MGL). At the other end of the spectrum? The Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Tampa Bay Lightning rank among the least injured teams currently.
It’s a bit funny to see the numbers on paper and take it for what you will when it’s compared to the standings in the NHL. The “most injured” (remember, just referring to MGL) Penguins have 38 points, tied with the New York Rangers. The Panthers with similar MGL to the Sabres are sitting in the top of their division and third in the Eastern Conference. Look at Calgary, in the top five injured teams among the entire NHL and they’re in 11th place in the Western Conference with 30 points, 13 behind the conference leading Minnesota wild.
Blame it on injuries, or don’t. I’ll take our injuries at face value and just be happy we have the depth to cope. (PS – if you’d like the spreadsheet with injuries around the NHL for this season and man games lost, I’d be happy to share it. Though it’s only up to date as of December 12th before any games were played.)