Patience is the buzz word around First Niagara Center these days. The team is holding onto hopes that a resurgence of our injured players will return the team to its rightful place in the standings.
Tonights opponent is set to give the Sabres fits, as the surprising Florida Panthers are sitting atop their division – a spot they are not to familiar with but relishing. For the sake of the Florida Panthers fan base, it would be nice if they could maintain their pace and race a division banner before realignment eliminates those roles.
The Sabres home woes continue, and those started before the rash of injuries, the team needs to settle its home game down and play a simplified road game if they are going to entertain thoughts of winning at First Niagara Center. The last game against the Philadelphia Flyers started out well, the team played a solid 19 minutes of the first period, taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. A sloppy second period allowed the game to get away from them, and a lucky goal by slumping Drew Stafford saved them a point, in a game that they should have gotten two out of.
Coming into tonights game the Sabres and Panthers have played twice already, splitting the decisions. The Sabres have outscored the Panthers in those games 5-3, and will need a solid game both offensively and defensively if they want to beat the surprising Panthers.
Add forward Nathan Gerbe back to the injured list, down with a concussion after the hit from behind along the boards in the Flyers game. With his back to the play along the boards, he was hit in the numbers and sent headlong into the boards by Mac-Andre Bourdon. Despite his crackdown on dangerous hits, the Flyers only punishment on the hit other than the two minute boarding penalty. The Sabres were not even the benefactors of a power play, because the referee added an instigator penalty on to Matt Ellis, another sign of the times that will prevent players from sticking up from one another and policing dangerous hits themselves.
The Sabres will also be without Ville Leino, who was suspended by the league for one game for his elbow to the head of Flyers forward Matt Read. While I can’t argue that Leino shouldn’t be suspended, we go back to the preseason game where a non-penalized Sabres player was suspended, when a penalized opposing player wasn’t.
It might be prudent for the league to start addressing plays that there should be an obvious suspension for when there is not. Much like the argument that referees should be held accountable and made available post games for their on ice decisions; the league allows for too much grey area when they don’t explain why things were not suspended.