The Sabres’ last game was ugly as they come, with Buffalo getting completely embarrassed by Montreal. The team hopes it was an aberration.
Based on the blows to the talent level, it might not be.
Buffalo’s depleted defense descended toward decimated status Friday with news that Tyler Myers is done for the season. The blue-liner broke a bone in his leg Thursday while blocking a shot against the Canadiens, and the healing process will take longer than the seven games that remain on Buffalo’s schedule.
“Obviously, that’s a huge hole for our defense corps,” said defenseman Mike Weber, whose team hosts Philadelphia this afternoon in First Niagara Center. “It’s obviously extremely unfortunate that he fractured his leg, but we’ve got to move forward.”
They’ll do so with a fraction of the team that opened the season against the Flyers.
Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera are the only defensemen left who played in the season opener. Myers and Alexander Sulzer were lost to injuries, while Buffalo traded Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold. Weber was a healthy scratch, and so was T.J. Brennan, who got dealt to Florida.
Add in traded captain Jason Pominville and Buffalo’s present lineup is measurably lower in skill and experience.
“You look around this room, we don’t have a lot of high-profile guys or, you know, highly skilled guys,” said Adam Pardy, who started the year as a minor-league ninth defenseman but will play in the top four today. “I mean, we do have a lot of skill here, but we need work, too. We need work and support.
“We can’t afford to be taking nights off like we did.”
The combination of lack of effort and diminished talent led to the 5-1 beatdown against the Habs. The Sabres can’t do anything about the latter, but they insist improving the former will help them overcome their shortcomings.
“Basically, the same team beat the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Weber said of last week’s win over the Stanley Cup contenders. “We know how to play. When we play the right way, it doesn’t matter who you have in the lineup.
“We still need to prove to ourselves in here. Guys are fighting for jobs, contracts, spots, ice time. There’s a huge list of things that you’re fighting for. You only get a certain amount of time in this league. Everyone’s fighting for different things. As a team, we’re fighting for the same goal of trying to improve every night. It starts right now.”
Myers won’t restart his career until next season. The defenseman was injured while blocking back-to-back shots by P.K. Subban during a second-period five-on-three penalty kill.
Myers still finished with a game-high 25:37 of ice time, with 9:36 coming after the bone break. Interim coach Ron Rolston said the injury will not require surgery.
“He played the rest of the game, basically, so it’s not a major, major thing,” Rolston said. “He just can’t continue on it.”
Though Myers has underperformed since reporting to training camp out of shape, his departure still leaves a major hole in the lineup. He was second in overall ice time at 21:18 per game, which included 2:14 of short-handed time (third on the Sabres) and 2:12 of power-play work (sixth).
The 23-year-old completed his fourth NHL season with three goals, eight points and a minus-8 rating in 39 games.
“He does everything out there,” Pardy said. “It’s tough to lose a guy like that, but at the same time it’s going to open the door for somebody else. Somebody’s going to come in here and going to have to play.”