The Buffalo Sabres received the news they had dreaded.
Daniel Briere, co-captain and offensive weapon, has a sports hernia. He will need surgery to repair a small tear in his abdomen and won't be able to play for two months.
The diagnosis was made Friday in Toronto by abdominal specialist Anthony Mascia, who confirmed Montreal Canadiens team physician David Mulder's opinion. Mulder will perform the operation within the next few days.
"It's a big hit," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Danny's a game breaker. He scores big goals at big times. We're going to miss him."
Ruff said Briere's sports hernia is similar to the one winger J.P. Dumont needed surgery to correct earlier this month. Dumont will be out until March. The Sabres hope to have Briere, who has 14 goals and nine assists in 24 games, back in time for the playoff push.
"It's the same time frame as J.P., the two-month range," Ruff said. "We're looking at the same operation and the same length of recovery."
Ruff dismissed the notion Buffalo could need to go shopping for help in light of Briere's absence.
"This group of guys is just an amazing group that picks up the pieces," Ruff said. "We've had players pick up that extra ice time. Jason Pominville has stepped in and done a great job on the power play for us. Thomas (Vanek) has got his game going on one of the top two lines. So the pieces that we've elevated in the lineup have fit nicely.
"It would be hard to argue that we need somebody to come in and take one of those guys' spots."
Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters played his 10th game, getting the opportunity to face his former brawl brother, Eric Boulton. They yapped at each other in the first period and again in the second after Boulton was penalized for charging Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
"There's no friends out there," Peters said. "He ran our goalie. My job is to protect my teammates. If somebody takes liberties on my teammates I'm going to address it.
"The choice was his (to fight). The ball was in his court. If he doesn't want to fight, that's up to him. Maybe he was hurt."
Said Boulton: "He challenged me a couple times, but I had instructions (from coach Bob Hartley) to turn the cheek."
Dmitri Kalinin missed his ninth consecutive game with a broken right little finger, but Ruff said the defenseman was close to returning.
The Sabres have allowed six short-handed goals, including one in Thursday night's shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Only eight teams had given up more while on the power play. The Thrashers had some short-handed rushes.
Ruff noted the trend stems from plugging in offensive-minded forwards Ales Kotalik and Pominville on the point.
"I'll take the tradeoff we got right now," said Ruff, "because the power play has done the damage and any time any team puts a forward on the point runs the risk of getting beat in the one-on-one situations."