The Buffalo Sabres had an optional practice yesterday, and many players took advantage of the day off, leaving the Sabres practice roster even more thin than usual. However, optional practice schedules aren't the only reason the Sabres practice roster has been so thin lately - they also have a few players currently rehabbing from injury.
Yesterday, it was revealed by Ted Nolan that two of those players could return before the end of the year, and judging by the work ethic of Patrick Kaleta and Zemgus Girgensons, I wouldn't bet against either of them. This, from yesterday's practice report:
On the possibility of Patrick Kaleta returning before season’s end (Kaleta has been out since Feb. 15 following surgery to repair a lower-body injury):
"If there’s one of them [to return], that’s a guy you’d bet on. He’s come through some tough injuries and he’s battled hard to work himself back in there. That’s one guy I wouldn’t question or Girgensons, either."
On ruling Zemgus Girgensons out for the year (Girgensons blocked a shot off his foot on Feb. 24):
"I haven’t ruled him out yet. I saw him this morning and it looks like he gained some weight and he looks healthy. So we’ll see what happens in the next little while."
But this is no ordinary year, and the end of the season will have a gigantic effect on the future of the Sabres franchise. The race to 30th is tightening up, with the Sabres holding a slim three point lead over the Edmonton Oilers and a six point lead over Arizona. The Sabres have been so horrendous, so historically bad all season, that to finish anything but 30th, thus guaranteeing themselves a generational forward, would be a disappointment.
In the final month of the season, the Sabres have six games, and three of those look like possible wins - games against the Leafs, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets. Is anybody else worried that the return of Girgensons might affect the outcome of those games? Why rush anyone back from injury for the end of this season? So they can get two or three games in before the end of the year? Mr. Murray, just shut them down for the rest of the year and take the decision out of their (and Nolan's hands).
I love watching both Girgensons and (when he's not suspended) Kaleta play. But this one time, I hope I don't see them again until next year.