PHILADELPHIA – Everybody hurts sometimes, but the Buffalo Sabres have had to deal with an extraordinary number of injuries this season.
Nine players are already listed on the injury report, including the team’s top two goaltenders.
They’ve already dressed 44 different players this year, a franchise record according to Elias Sports Bureau, and they may have to find a way to replace a few more injured players.
Buffalo fell to the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 5-2 on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center, but injuries to defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Christian Ehrhoff and potentially goaltender Nathan Lieuwen were the major topics covered by Sabres coach Ted Nolan after the game.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys out and injuries catch up to you every once in a while,” Nolan said. “…We’ve got some kids in a position that there’s no big brother for them right now. They’ve got to sink or swim and certain games like this, it’s going to catch up to us.”
Ruhwedel left the game 4:29 into the third period after he was hit in the head by Flyers wing Zac Rinaldo. Ruhwedel shot a puck in from the Flyers blue line and lowered his head in his follow-through. Rinaldo came in from the middle of the ice without letting up and checked Ruhwedel to the ice.
Rinaldo was given a match penalty and was ejected from the game.
UPDATE: RINALDO FACES HEARING WITH THE LEAGUE
Nolan said after the game that Ruhwedel was diagnosed with a concussion.
“Those are the types of hits that we have to get rid of. Those are not only dangerous hits but you’re also putting a fellow player in jeopardy of his career,” Nolan said. “Hit-to-head injuries and concussions, we all know how serious they are and we’ve still got guys with flying elbows going directly to the head.”
Lieuwen did not speak with the media after the game because he was not feeling well. He took a hit inside the crease from Jay Rosehill late in the third period. Mike Weber scored on the delayed penalty.
Lieuwen finished with 32 saves.
Ehrhoff left the game cupping his right ear after a puck deflected up and hit him in the head toward the end of regulation. He tweeted after the game that it took about 40 stitches to re-attach part of the ear.
Buffalo scored their first goal during the five-minute power play they received as a result of the Rinaldo hit on Ruhwedel. Cody Hodgson deflected in a point shot by Ehrhoff to make it 4-1.
“We’re trying to get goals on the power play at the same time. You can’t turn it into a circus because we’re still trying to win the game,” Hodgson said. “The referees took care of it. They got rid of him in the game and we’ll see what happens with the League and what they say.”
Rookie defenseman Jake McCabe took a high hit from Rinaldo earlier in the game behind the Buffalo net. Rinaldo was penalized for charging on the play.
“He’s just like any other player on their team. He forechecks hard, he finishes his checks,” McCabe said. “You can’t watch your pass in this League and that’s what I was doing tonight.”
Rinaldo has a reputation for playing on the edge. He was called for two other minors in the game: a goaltender interference penalty and a tripping infraction.
The hit on Ruhwedel in particular didn’t sit well with some Sabres players.
“That’s dirty. I don’t know how many times you can get in trouble for stuff like that in your career and hopefully he learns this time,” Weber said. “Obviously teams need energy players like that but there’s a certain line you can’t cross and he seems like two, three times a year, he’s crossing them.”
The Flyers scored the first four goals of the game and didn’t look back. Matt Read got things started with 6:30 to play in the first period. Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier scored in the second period to make it 4-0. Schenn added another in the third period.
“We got out-battled and out-competed and everyone who watched the game, you can see that,” Hodgson said. “As a team and as individuals, we can all improve.”
The Sabres have four games left in the season and they’ll look to finish as strong as they can. They host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, followed by road games against Rangers and Bruins. They close out the year on April 13 at home against the New York Islanders.
“It’s all about, at this level, the decision-making from all of us, even the veteran core, we’re not doing the best job of making the best decisions at the right times.” Weber said. “We’ve got four to go. We need to find a way to build, set the tone for this upcoming season.”