There are plenty of areas where the Buffalo Sabres rank near the bottom of the National Hockey League.
There's one place they rank first, and they'd really rather not.
The Sabres led the league in man-games lost to injury with 248 through Saturday's games. The Colorado Avalanche are second at 242 games.
"That's part of the game," Sabres coach Phil Housley said earlier this week about the team's injury bug. "We've had to deal with this throughout the whole year. It's been very unfortunate but on the other side of it, guys are getting opportunities to play and I think we've played some pretty good hockey lately and it's good for them to experience the winning side of it. I know they've done a really good job in Rochester but it's good to see our guys rally around all this recently and come out with some wins."
Some of those opportunities, however, have ended early. And not well.
While the injury list includes Zach Bogosian (a frequent flyer on injured reserve and out for the season with a hip injury), Jake McCabe (shoulder) and Jack Eichel (high-ankle sprain), it also features some guys who were called up to plug the injury holes.
Kyle Criscuolo suffered a shoulder injury that puts him out four to six weeks. He suffered it midway through the second period of Monday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when he took a hit from Matt Martin hard into the boards. Criscuolo had been called up the day before. It was just his ninth NHL game.
The injury off the hit was a bad break for Criscuolo and the Sabres.
And those bad breaks kept coming.
The second major injury of last week came in Ottawa on Thursday when Kyle Okposo suffered a concussion after colliding with Senators forward Bobby Ryan in an awkward play where neither saw the other skater before they ran into each other.
"There's been a ton of unfortunate bounces," Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It just seems like every few games someone's getting hurt. It's tough. You don’t want to see that. There's a lot of opportunity. Guys want to play and you want to build a foundation here. It's just tough when guys go down. It happens in the game. We've got to stick together and find a way to help each other out but it's just something you don’t want to see."
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The Sabres did not practice on Sunday and were scheduled for another day off on Monday. The team played four games in six days with two wins, a loss and a shootout loss.
Buffalo does not play again until Thursday, a rare four-day break between games, before starting a five-game homestand.
Toronto returns to KeyBank Center at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Sabres then host Chicago (1 p.m., March 17), Nashville (7 p.m., March 19), Arizona (7 p.m., March 21) and Montreal (7 p.m., March 23).
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While the Sabres were off, the Rochester Americans were not. With no games until Thursday, the Sabres reassigned forward Justin Bailey and Danny O'Regan to the Amerks on Sunday. Both were in the lineup for the Amerks Sunday afternoon when they hosted the Syracuse Crunch.
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Got used hockey equipment hanging around your house? Starting Monday, March 19, you can bring it to KeyBank Center as part of the Buffalo Sabre Green Team hockey equipment drive. Donated equipment will benefit Hasek's Heroes.
The drive runs through Friday, March 23. A collection net will be located outside the KeyBank Center Account Services office.