The Buffalo Sabres got every ounce of effort possible out of their defensemen on Wednesday night.
When injuries forced both Jaroslav Spacek and Dmitri Kalinin out of the lineup, head coach Lindy Ruff had no choice but to ride his four remaining healthy blueliners for the last 27 minutes of Buffalo's 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers.
The Sabres ice time chart read like a work of fiction: Toni Lydman 29:27 TOI (averaging 21:20 entering the game); rookie Andrej Sekera
25:42 (17:17 average); Nolan Pratt 19:13 (13:09 average); and Nathan Paetsch 17:03 (13:48 average).
Amazing enough, Buffalo still was a shootout away from claiming two points.
"We gave it all we had," said Ruff. "With the situation we were in, we should have or could have won the game."
"We just tried to keep [shifts] short; that's the biggest thing," said Lydman. "You get stuck out there, they end up cycling in our end and it's a problem. You might eventually get to the bench but there's not a whole lot of time to recover before you go right back out there."
The burden not only had an adverse effect when Buffalo was protecting their own zone.
The Sabres aggressive attacking style promotes defensemen jumping into the offensive attack. With their reserves dwindled and their defensemen skating every other shift, Buffalo was force to take a more conservative approach.
"Normally, we would take more chances coming up the ice with the forwards, but after our couple of 'D' went down I thought you had to make sure it was the right time," said Lydman. "More often you would change than come up ice."
Ruff tried to help relieve some pressure by using Derek Roy
and Jason Pominville
in their own zone from time to time. In the four-on-four overtime, he even put all forwards on the ice to increase the rest time.
"It's a cliche but you just had to battle through it," said Pratt. "It is what it is."
The injuries to Kalinin and Spacek were not what Buffalo needed heading into the stretch run. Spacek is heavily involved in all facets of the game - five-on-five, power play and penalty kill - while Kalinin was expected to pick up important additional minutes in a playoff run.
Henrik Tallinder's possible return this week would have marked the first time since Mar. 2 that Buffalo had a healthy blueline. While no specifics were available following the game, the initial report from Ruff were not favorable.
"[Spacek's injury] looks a little longer than shorter," said Ruff. "Dmitri, it's going to be a period of time for him too. Probably a shorter period of time than Jaro though."
Ruff didn't believe either injury would be season ending.
"Either guy could be weeks though, but that [the season-ending designation] wouldn't be fair to say right now," said Ruff.
Spacek went to the Sabres locker room just 12 minutes into the game; Kalinin with six minutes remaining in the second period.