In one of this season's new scheduling quirks, every team in the NHL will receive five days off in the middle of the season. Nicknamed "the bye week," these five days are to offset the extra games for players who had to play in the World Cup of Hockey earlier this year.
Some teams have had their bye weeks already, but now as February comes to a close, the Buffalo Sabres will finally have theirs.
So what does this mean for the Sabres? Starting today, and for the following four days, the team has no games, no practices, a total blackout. There is one caveat, however, for teams that play a game on the sixth day, that they may have practice after 4 p.m. on the fifth day of the bye. The Sabres are one of those teams.
The bye week comes with both good and bad aspects. The good news is that it gives injured players, or guys who are just a little banged up, a chance to heal, rest and recuperate. It also gives Bailey, Baptiste, and Rodrigues a chance to play more with the Amerks - all three were sent down today.
The bad news is that it compresses the schedule, forcing the Sabres to play 11 games in 18 days before the bye week. For a young team that could really benefit from some structured practice days, the compressed schedule led to almost no real practices over the last three weeks, and to tired players by the time the team lost to Chicago last night. Another aspect of the bye week is facing some rustiness when the tram finally des come back - in their first game after the bye week, NHL teams have lost more than they've won.
For a Sabres team that desperately needs all the points they can get, they can't afford to come out of the bye cold. Right now the team sits four points behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic division, but the Sabres have played more games than any other team in the Atlantic, and will have to watch others pile up points while the Sabres sit idle.
So for the next five days, watch the standings, root for every team in the Atlantic to lose, and let's hope the Sabres don't come out of this bye week with a hole too big to climb out of.