BOSTON – The injuries keep piling up for the Buffalo Sabres, but there is an end in sight. The team now has only one game remaining in the 2013-14 season.
The Sabres lost five players due to injury over the course of their 4-1 loss Saturday afternoon to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Perhaps the most serious-looking injury was sustained by goaltender Matt Hackett 8:25 into the third period. Bruins forward Torey Krug crashed the net and fell into Hackett, knocking the net off its moorings. Hackett, on his stomach, then reached for his right leg in a great deal of pain.
Training staff members from both teams helped turn him over and he was then taken off the ice on a stretcher. Hackett never left the arena for treatment and flew back to Buffalo with the team.
Connor Knapp, who was called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Friday, came in to make his NHL debut.
He became the sixth goaltender to see game action for the Sabres this season. The Sabres have dressed nine different goaltenders this year, an NHL record according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“You never want to see that happen. Obviously it was bad. All the guys feel pretty terrible about something like that happening – especially with everything that’s happened already,” Knapp said. “Definitely not the way you want to play your first NHL minutes. See [Hackett] go down like that, it’s tough.”
Hackett had the misfortune of becoming the fourth Sabres goaltender to end up on the injury report. Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are out with lower-body injuries and Nathan Lieuwen sustained a concussion last week.
At one point in the game because of injuries and penalties, the Sabres had only seven players available on the bench.
Forward Chris Stewart re-injured his ankle during his first shift of the game.
Center Brian Flynn took his last shift late in the second period before leaving the game with a lower-body injury.
Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff sustained what Sabres coach Ted Nolan called a “mild concussion” when he crashed head-first into the end boards early in the third period.
Matt D’Agostini skated into the dressing room late in the third with a lower-body injury.
None of them will be able to play in Buffalo's season finale against the New York Islanders on Sunday at 5 p.m.
That list doesn’t include the six players already out of the lineup and the unknown number of skaters playing through various injuries.
“There’s not much to say. I’ve never seen anything like that. To go through that on the bench, that’s quite a bit of a challenge,” Sabres alternate captain Drew Stafford said. “…That’s a heck of a team over there. That’s going to be a challenge with four lines and six D let alone we’ve got two lines and four D maybe after a while.
“So yeah, that was a challenge, but we talked about it in here again, not going out with a whimper.”
As has been the case in many recent Sabres-Bruins games, Scott and Milan Lucic were in the middle of a few incidents after the whistle.
Lucic received a roughing penalty 7:40 into the period and, while being guided to the penalty box by an official, knocked down D’Agostini from behind.
Then, with 9:58 to go in the second, Lucic and Scott looked about ready to engage in an altercation along the left wing boards in the Buffalo zone. They grappled and Scott dropped his gloves. That’s when Zdeno Chara jumped in and tangled with Scott as the officials moved in to break it up.
Scott was given minor penalties for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. He was also sent off on a 10-minute misconduct. Chara was called for a high-sticking double-minor when his stick clipped Scott.
Late in the game, with 3:40 to play in the third period, Scott lined up next to Chara for a faceoff to Tuukka Rask’s right. Scott and Chara exchanged some words and both were given 10-minute misconducts and sent off the ice.
“Johnny’s a very personable guy. And sometimes he goes on the other side, but sometimes he just talks,” Nolan said. “And sometimes referees don’t know what they’re talking about. They could be talking about the weather, who knows? It didn’t look like it was going in that aggressive manner.
“…Sometimes when a player has a certain reputation, it follows him and maybe tonight, that’s what happened.”
McCabe leveled Bruins forward Daniel Paille with a check in front of the Sabres bench 7:17 into the third period. Paille had to be helped off the ice by his teammates and went directly to the Bruins dressing room.
On the play, McCabe was given a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. He said he didn’t intend to injure Paille and hoped that he comes away healthy.
“My intentions are my shoulder to the chest. I don’t think I raised my elbow at all. I haven’t seen a replay, but that was my thought as soon as it happens,” McCabe said after the game. “…I got called for interference. I don’t think it was too late. He tried to go through me. Like I said, I kept my hands down. Kind of just an unfortunate play. I think his head was down so it’s too bad.
The Bruins finally broke through with 3:06 remaining in the first period when Campbell redirected an attempt in front of the net by Jordan Caron. Then, with 1:37 to play in the period, a shot caromed off the glass and back out in front of the net. Hackett was in position to play the original high shot and David Krejci was in the crease to backhand the puck into a virtually wide-open net to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
Bergeron made it 3-0 when he one-timed a pass from the right wing in past Hackett with 8:17 remaining in the second period.
Buffalo answered back 2:15 later when Hodgson scored. Hodgson hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
“It’s nice personally, but it doesn’t mean much when you don’t win,” he said. “You can’t even enjoy it.”
Mike Weber assisted on the Hodgson, extending his point streak to a career-high four games.
A shot from the point by Krejci made it a 4-1 game with 9:25 remaining when the puck bounced off the boards and in off Knapp’s heel.
The Bruins are now 43-3-0 this season in games in which they held a two-or-more-goal lead. They’re 133-7-6 since the start of the 2010-11 season in games in which they have held a two-goal lead.
With their victory over the Sabres, they clinched the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team that has earned the most points in the regular season.
Ville Leino and Zenon Konopka were healthy scratches and will almost certainly play Sunday evening in the season finale against the Islanders at First Niagara Center. As far as travel goes for any potential call-ups, the Rochester Americans played Saturday night in Hamilton and will be in Cleveland on Sunday to play the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Sabres don’t necessarily have to field a full lineup of 18 skaters against the Islanders, but whomever they dress will look to end the season with a strong finish.
“We’ve got to make sure we come out strong again tomorrow for the home fans, especially, and put an even better effort on the ice.” Hodgson said.