Vanek Out a Month, Sabres Need Not Panic
February 9, 2009 by Big Tony
It was a good news-bad news weekend for the Buffalo Sabres as the stretch-run approaches. The Good news is that Buffalo got three out of a possible four points including a win over seemingly playoff bound Montreal. The bad news is that they lost Thomas Vanek who is the team leader in goals, overall points, and in the locker room. Vanek will be out for a month after a slapshot hit him in the face fracturing his jaw. What this means for Buffalo is that the likes of Roy and Pominville will have to pick up the slack in Vanek’s absence. It also means the Sabres will need Tim Connolly to make his presence felt even sooner than was once thought as he returns from an injury that kept him sidelined for most of the season. Perhaps most important in all this is the already heavy load on Ryan Miller will get even heavier and it may be too much to ask of a goalie who has posted amazing numbers for a team that is only in seventh position. The Sabres certainly cannot replace Vanek’s 52 points—32 of which are in the form of goals—but what they can do is try to take some of the pressure off of Miller and have a little more faith in Patrick Lalime. Granted, Lalime’s numbers aren’t good and neither is his record but if the team can tighten up and take pressure off of Lalime when he plays–giving Miller even one extra day of rest–it can make a world a difference. Bottom line, if Lalime cannot relieve Miller he may wear down and it can cause the Sabres to miss the playoffs; or even if they make it Miller won’t be able to get them out of round one. However, if Miller is kept rested and the Sabres make the playoffs it greatly increases their chances of success and in that way Vanek’s injury could be a blessing in disguise but they have to play their cards right.