The Sabres have an opportunity Wednesday when they play the last place New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the Sabres last few games that gives me any reason to think that they’ll take advantage of this opportunity.     

The Devils are the only team in the NHL with a poorer record than Buffalo.  Their goalie, Martin Brodeur may not play Wednesday due to a recent elbow injury.  The Devils struggles have been blamed on a top heavy payroll with the big finger pointing at Ilya Kovalchuk.  Kovalchuk has 3 goals and 5 assists in 14 games.  Due to salary cap issues the Devils have been forced to call up AHL level players to fill out the roster.  The Devils second best player, Zach Parise recently had surgery on a torn meniscus and is out for three months.  Brian Rolston has been out for New Jersey since the third game of the season.  Whereas New Jersey’s issues can be traced back to perhaps a poor signing (Kovalchuk) and injuries (Parise, Rolston, Volchenkov), the Sabres woes are more mysterious.

The Sabres have their share of injuries (described below) but injuries are by far not the Sabres biggest issue.  Their issue is their general poor play.  It’s been tough to point at any single player because many of the Sabres are having a tough time on the rink.  Tim Connolly looks less confident, Morrisonn and Tyler Myers are making costly giveaways and the offense is struggling to score goals.  As I’ve stated in a few recent posts, the entire Sabres team looks emotionless on the rink.  As far as injuries for this Wednesday’s game, Ryan Miller tops the names on the list.          

Ryan Miller will most likely be a backup in this game, so that negates any advantage in net the Sabres might’ve enjoyed.  Jhonas Enroth will get the start for Buffalo.  Enroth had a solid showing in Toronto in Buffalo’s most recent win.  Patrick Lalime has a stomach virus and will not make the weekend trip with the team to NJ & NY.  Drew Stafford will most likely be out with a shoulder injury.  Nathan Gerbe is still healing a broken jaw.  Craig Rivet is sick and will not make the trip to New Jersey. 

The lack of team chemistry caused by injuries can’t help, but the Sabres have ample replacements for all positions except in net. 

After watching the first 15 games I don’t think that the Sabres woes are going to simply fix themselves.  It’s going to be a long road to recovery.  There are individual, team, and perhaps even coaching issues.  Heck, the power play has been bad for years!  Regardless of how soon the Sabres improve, they are playing the worst team in the league tomorrow.  This is not the LA Kings or St. Louis, who are currently dominating the league.  I would not expect Buffalo to compete with those teams at this point.  The Sabres need a win on Wednesday just to keep their playoff aspirations afloat.  A loss on Wednesday doesn’t eliminate Buffalo from the playoffs, but it would symbolize something.  It would symbolize that the Sabres are inching closer to permanent residents in the basement.

If the Sabres were playing Detroit, I’d settle for seeing improvements in play even if it meant taking a loss.  Wednesday there will be no moral victories.  The Sabres play a tough NY Rangers team on Thursday.  The Rangers will be looking to take advantage of the struggling Sabres just as the Sabres are looking at the Devils.  It’s up to the Sabres to start climbing the ladder, and it begins on the bottom rung at 7pm Wednesday night in New Jersey.

Buffalo Sabres @ New Jersey Devils – Prudential Center, Newark, NJ: 7pm