PHILADELPHIA — This is simply The Season That Can’t End Soon Enough.
The Buffalo Sabres completed an 0-3 road trip with Sunday’s 5-2 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. They got outshot, 37-19, and were badly outplayed for the final 45 minutes of the laugher at Wells Fargo Center.
And worse yet, they were manhandled as well.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has a concussion after taking a flying elbow to the head from Flyers rat Zac Rinaldo at 4:29 of the third period. Rinaldo got a match penalty and will almost certainly be looking at a lengthy suspension from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.
Later in the period, Jay Rosehill drove through Sabres rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen after being pushed by Mike Weber and appeared to make contact with Lieuwen’s head and neck area. And the final indignity came with 1:10 left when Christian Ehrhoff bolted to the dressing room after taking a puck to the side of the head.
The upshot? You would think Ruhwedel, who was seen sitting glassy-eyed in the dressing room area, is a candidate to miss the final four games. Lieuwen was feeling too ill to meet the media and was ushered into a restricted area for further testing. And when asked about Ehrhoff, coach Ted Nolan said, “It looked pretty serious.”
Most of the postgame chatter, of course, centered around the Rinaldo play.
Ruhwedel was low to the ice trying to unleash a shot when Rinaldo, although keeping his elbow tight to his body, leapt directly into Ruhwedel’s head. Ruhwedel went down with his hands on his helmet and then slowly skated directly to the Buffalo dressing room.
“That’s dirty. Period,” said Sabres defenseman Mike Weber. “I don’t know how many times you can get in trouble for stuff like that in your career. Hopefully he learns this time.
“Teams need energy players like that but there’s a certain line you can’t cross and it seems like he’s crossing it 2-3 times a year.”
Nolan was quick to announce Ruhwedel’s concussion, which will certainly play into the NHL’s decision.
“Those are the type of hits that we have to get rid of,” Nolan said. “Those are not only dangerous hits but you’re also putting a fellow player in jeopardy of his career. Head injuries, concussions, we all know how serious they are and we still have guys with flying elbows going directly to the head.”
Rinaldo seemed pretty repentant afterward, almost a first salvo to try to mitigate his suspension.
“I had a lot of speed going at him,” Rinaldo said. “Had my shoulder down and as I hit him, he shot the puck, and my shoulder hit his head, clearly … I shouldn’t have done it. We’re up, 4-0, and there was no need for it, but it is what it is.”
Rinaldo was suspended for two games in Feb. 2012 for high hit on Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson and escaped a suspension last September after he was ejected for elbowing Washington forward Mikhail Grabovski during a preseason game.
“I haven’t talked to Shanahan for maybe a year and a half now, so I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It could go either way.”
There was no response by the Sabres to the play, with Nolan saying his team knew it was getting a five-minute power play and that officials took care of the situation.
“We didn’t see it actually,” noted Cody Hodgson. “Even the guys on the bench didn’t even see it. We were watching the puck and I didn’t know anything happened till I watched the replay. That was a really dirty hit.”
Lieuwen’s health could certainly be an issue in the final week as well. That’s because Nolan said before the game he has pretty much ruled out a return of either Michal Neuvirth or Jhonas Enroth in the final four games because of their lower-body injuries.
They have missed the last 12 and 10 games, respectively, and it’s been Lieuwen and Matt Hackett ever since.
The Flyers had four different scorers in the game with Brayden Schenn netting two. Matt Read scored the game’s first goal at 13:30 of the first period and Philly seized momentum from there. The Flyers scored three times in the second period. Lieuwen made 32 saves and got little help at times.
Hodgson and Weber scored for the Sabres in the third period. It was Weber’s first.