While it's a hockey player's mantra that players must step up and do the job for an injured teammate, it's been proven time and again that injuries to several key players can't be overcome.
That's what happened to the Buffalo Sabres
, a team that was in playoff contention into March, despite injuries to Tim Connolly
, Thomas Vanek
and Craig Rivet
, before goalie Ryan Miller
missed 13 games with an ankle injury.
Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier
didn't tinker much with his lineup over the summer, believing that if the team can stay relatively healthy, it'll be a serious contender for the Northeast Division crown and more.
The local media has criticized Regier's approach, but the players deeply appreciate his faith in them, said rugged forward Adam Mair
"I love our team and I love our players," Mair said. "When you look at the young players we've signed to long-term contracts, you can see that Darcy and upper management believe in those players. It would go against the plan to deviate and start bringing in new players because we missed the playoffs by two points.
"Management has a strategy here and the contracts show that. This team is maturing, but it doesn't come easily and we have to work at it. There's a need for the guys in our dressing room to realize it's up to us and we have to get the job done this year."
Mair had a solid season in 2008-09, despite a midseason knee injury, totaling 8 goals and 19 points, his second-highest total in six seasons with Buffalo. He also had 95 penalty minutes.
"The game changed (with the new rules and standard of enforcement in 2005)," Mair said. "There's more emphasis on stick penalties and hits to the head. I have to be responsible and limit my penalties because it's so hard to score five-on-five now, and you don't want to give the other team power plays.
"I've become a little smarter. My fights have stayed constant, between five and 10 a year."
Mair was impressed last season at training camp with the energy and commitment of Rivet, a new arrival who soon after coming aboard was named team captain. He supported Rivet's selection as captain and was even more impressed when Rivet came to his aid in the season's second game, against the New York Islanders
. Mair was hiding a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason.
"That was huge," Mair said. "The Islanders were down 3-0 and trying to change momentum with a fight off a faceoff. I was playing with a numb shoulder and didn't want to further aggravate it. He turned a one-on-one fight into a five-on-five little scrum. It showed his character and caring for teammates."