Injury Bug Bites Hard
Thursday, 02.15.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Already feeling the absence of Paul Gaustad for the remainder of the season and Jaroslav Spacek for three to four weeks, the Sabres lost two more important cogs in their dramatic 2-1 victory in overtime over the Edmonton Oilers at HSBC Arena on Thursday night.
Maxim Afinogenov, who set a new career high with his 23rd goal of the season in the second period, will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks with a broken left wrist, while Jiri Novotny will be out indefinitely after re-aggravating his high-ankle sprain.
"He fell on it," said Ruff regarding how Afinogenov was injured. "It actually happened the shift before he scored the goal."
Afinogenov, who was ridden hard into the boards by Edmonton defenseman Jason Smith, netted Buffalo's first goal of the game to tie the score 1-1 at 18:04 in the second on his last shift in the game. He was unable to continue in the third period.
"We had it X-Rayed in between periods and that's what it turned out to be," said Ruff. "It's going to make things a lot tougher. We'll have to dig in and we're going to have to ask a little more from some younger players."
Novotny sustained his injury when his skate twisted during a hit on defenseman Matt Greene behind the net.
"Those ankle injuries are so tough," said Ruff. "That high-ankle sprain you can get it so close but it never feels quite right. You can tape it up as solid as you can, but [Novotny] was saying that he could feel it still and could feel it when he battles. I mentioned yesterday that he was still trying to get through that and you have to give him credit for playing with it.
"[The win] was a gutsy effort, but you can look at it that Max and Jiri are two big losses. As big as Paul's loss in a different direction."
Buffalo is now in familiar territory. During last year's playoffs, the Sabres suffered injury after injury, being forced to rely on call-ups and inexperienced players to collect the pieces. This time, the situation is different in one regard.
In 2005-06, Buffalo was shorthanded when it mattered most, not when they sat atop the standings with 82 points.
"I mentioned after the game that all that work and the tight games we've won, the points we put in the bank are important," said Ruff. "We are in good shape. We can afford to put in some young players.
"We don't need any more injuries, I can tell you that. But if you're going to have them, if you're going to have this amount, let's have them now and get them out of the way. We may pay a price for it, but let's get them out of the way and move forward."
Daniel Briere ended the game with his 25th of the season just 1:02 into the extra frame on a two-on-one rush. Receiving an across-ice feed from Jochen Hecht, the Sabres co-captain waited for center Toby Peterson to slide out of position before snapping a wristshot top shelf to give Buffalo their sixth-straight victory at home for the first time since 1999.
"For a second, I was thinking about going to the bench," said Briere. "I figured I had it in my legs for one more rush when I saw the two-on-one.
"I knew they had three forwards to start [overtime] and that it was a forward defending the rush. It's a little tougher for a forward to play a two-on-one because you're not used to doing it. I wanted him to commit and make the move. When he slid, I just let him go by."
Shawn Horcoff scored his 13th of the season with a wristshot from the left face-off dot to give Edmonton the 1-0 lead at 7:02 of the first.
Receiving a feed from Ales Hemsky near the top of the circle, Horcoff curved into an open space and fired a shot that deflected off Dmitri Kalinin's glove past Ryan Miller to record his fifth point (3+2) in five games.
"It was definitely going high glove and ended up going off my side," said Miller, who made 27 saves.
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