The Buffalo Sabres’ turn to have a week off came at an ample time. Multiple players have not been at 100% lately and seven long days to rest up may have been just what the doctor ordered. The team resumes play tomorrow night at MSG vs. the Rangers. A few stories have been developing over the past few days and it will be interesting to see how they play out.
Sabres fans have been chomping at the bit all season for a look at prospect Brendan Guhle, and their patience was rewarded. For his strong AHL play, Guhle got his first call up of the year last week vs. Columbus, and he wasted no time impressing. The 20-year-old looked better in one game than half the Sabres’ defensemen have all season. With the bye-week commencing, Guhle and Linus Ullmark (who dazzled in his season debut as well) were returned to Rochester to help the team continue its torrid season. Unfortunately, that’s when things went wrong.
Amy Moritz of The Buffalo News reports that Guhle was injured in the Amerks’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Utica Comets on Monday night at Blue Cross Arena. The severity of his injury has not yet been clarified but Sabres fans can’t be too happy either way. A pro of the situation, however, is that it opens the door for another talented young defender.
Casey Nelson is also considered a potential blue-liner of the future for the Sabres, but much like Guhle, the team has taken its time with the 25-year-old and allowed him to hone his craft at his own pace. Guhle’s injury combined with illness overcoming Nathan Beaulieu provides the NCAA alum his own opportunity to show what he can do. Leading Rochester with a +11 rating and points to match, Nelson has been recalled and will be in the lineup vs. New York. He might not be as dazzling as his Amerk’s teammate, but fans are no less excited.
The other story may be even bigger. For weeks Evander Kane has been the subject of rampant trade talks, but another Sabre just came to the forefront as well.
Chicago Blackhawk’s G Corey Crawford has been out since before Christmas with what the team is calling vertigo symptoms, it’s the second time in his career that he’s been afflicted so. Team official Scotty Bowman stated earlier today that he believes it may be concussion-related. On December 21 vs. Dallas, Crawford got bumped but appeared fine and stayed in the game. Two nights later he was uncharacteristically torched for three goals in less than 14 minutes vs. New Jersey and he’s been on the injured reserve ever since. Originally considered week-to-week, it’s now doubtful that he will be back this season.
Seeing as Crawford was pretty much the only thing holding the Hawks in contention, that is not good news for Chicago, especially considering backup Anton Forsberg has not been good. If the Hawks place Crawford on the long-term IR, it will free up considerable cap space and will allow the team to pursue a replacement, and its best option may be Robin Lehner. It’s been reportedly for weeks now that multiple teams have been asking about the Sabres’ starter, who is an RFA at the end of this season. With that being considered, Chicago making an attempt is not far-fetched at all.
While Lehner has been inconsistent for most of the year, it’s impossible to deny that he gets little to no help from his defense, an area that the Blackhawks have been stacked in for years thanks to Joel Quenneville’s intelligent, two-way mentality. The towering Swede could do very well with a better team in front of him, and unloading him could help Buffalo as well.
The aforementioned Ullmark stood on his head in his season debut for Buffalo, all the more impressive considering it was on the heels of an embarassing performance from Lehner and Chad Johnson the game before. Sending Lehner to the Windy City would open the door for Ullmark to become the team’s starter, something fans would not object to at all. Lehner hasn’t been too terrible all things considered and the Sabres could command a decent something in return.
We will have to wait and see what unfolds. Buffalo returns to action against the Rangers tomorrow night in the Big Apple, 7:30 puck drop.