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It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Buffalo Sabres.
Everyone on the team has been injured, it seems, and a lot of key players are out for a long time. Mike Weber's on the shelf indefinitely with an upper body injury; Tyler Myers is still weeks from coming back; Brad Boyes is on IR; Jordan Leopold missed a week, a number of other guys are questionable for tonight's game with Florida. At one point last week, they had nine guys missing (including Ryan Miller, one of the best goaltenders on the planet), which Coach Lindy Ruff said was the most he'd ever seen in the NHL. He's been with the Sabres almost straight through since 1979.
All of which is a long way of saying that if opposing teams could stop playing physical against the Sabres, it would be greatly appreciated.
These guys have been repeatedly targeted with hits that are sometimes controversial and often injurious, though one wonders how much of that was in the team's response to the Milan Lucic steamrolling of Miller.
When the Sabres have tried to make opponents answer for dirty hits (Lucic a week and a half after he drilled Miller, Jordin Tootoo bumping Miller in his first game back, and most recently Marc-Andre Bourdon boarding Nathan Gerbe), the offenders haven't exactly come out any worse for wear.
But the real reason it would be prudent for the NHL's various tough customers to stop running Sabres at every available opportunity is so Ruff will stop complaining about every borderline hit on the guys in Buffalo sweaters. You'd have thought Brendan Shanahan's admonition about the wildly irresponsible and petulant comments he made after having nothing to say to the media immediately following the Lucic hit — along the lines of, "Maybe we'll run Tim Thomas if there's not going to be supplementary discipline" — would have been enough to stop the sob stories, but they've continued unabated.
On Tootoo running Miller, and getting five for charging and a game misconduct for it, Ruff said: "I look at the NFL and I look at the Detroit Lion that got two games for a 6-inch kick. He got kicked out of the game, and then that amounted to one-eighth of our season. That's a 10-game suspension. I think they do it right. The message there is we're not putting up with this stuff. I think we need a strong message. Is five strong enough? I don't know."
Ruff wanted 10 games for a guy who drove hard to the net and, if he hadn't left his feet trying to avoid Miller, would have gotten what David Booth got, which is nothing. Of course, he wants the NFL suspension model, as though kicking a guy after a play is on the same level as what Tootoo did.
Then, following Marc-Andre Bourdon's clearly-illegal hit on Gerbe, he said, "I definitely think that's something that's got to get looked at," Ruff said. "There was no turning. It was just a hit from behind head first into the glass."
No one, and I mean no one, watched a replay of that hit and said, "I don't know about that one." It's clear as day, shoulder between the numbers, face into the glass, for a guy that's 5-foot-2. Gerbe has a concussion, or at least it's looking like that's the case.
So when Tootoo didn't get five or 10 games, and just two instead, that was one thing. But Bourdon didn't even get a hearing. Oh boy. Ruff's belief that the league is out to get the Sabres by allowing opponents to run all their players must now be steadfast.
Why would you do this to hockey fans, Brendan Shanahan?
Throw the guy a one-game suspension. Throw him a fine. Anything to get Lindy Ruff to stop crying to the media every time someone takes a Sabre hard to the boards. This was, frankly, a tap-in. Like one of those Crosby-type passes that anyone could have put in if they put their blade on the ice. And… nothing? Really?
So in the end, maybe Ruff has a point about the way the League is handing out discipline these days. But it's certainly not to do with only the Sabres. Things have been, shall we say, inconsistent if not outright meek from Shanahan ever since the end of the preseason when he would have given Bourdon at least five for the same hit he just got away with scot-free.
There is, however, one solution that could work out for everyone: Fire Shanahan and let Ruff take his job. That way, anyone who looks at another player cross-eyed will get rung up for a 10-gamer unless they're Ville Leino, who Ruff says didn't mean to reach his elbow out the length of a football field to clip Matt Read in the head.
Maybe then the Sabres do better than 3-5-2 in their next 10.
Shouldn't we all be more worried about Sidney Crosby?
On January 6, 2011, Sid Crosby missed a game against the Montreal Canadiens. The reason why was listed as an upper body injury, but Dan Bylsma later confirmed it was a "mild concussion" believed to have been suffered on a check from Victor Hedman.
At the time, it was believed he would be out a week and that was it. That week stretched 320 days, and during that time it was rumored several times that he was just X number of days away and would be able to play against Y opponent.
Last night, Crosby sat out his first game since colliding with his own guy or maybe elbowed by David Krejci (who knows, really?) on Monday, and will apparently miss one more as a precautionary measure. The Penguins didn't want to play him until he was 100 percent. Totally understandable.
But then Crosby tells the Penguins website that he had a "slight headache" following Wednesday's practice. No concussion symptoms, apparently. He's supposed to work out again today and see how he feels.
I don't know. I'm a little concerned. Most famous concussion case, maybe in sports history, and everyone's like "Oh well, just a headache, eh? Well get better soon, bud!" And that's it? He wasn't made available to reporters, either.
The hope, obviously, is that everything works out okay. I'm not saying the Penguins are intentionally obfuscating the message here, but shouldn't there be, like, a little more nailbiting than this?
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