All of a sudden, the Buffalo Sabres have dried up in terms of scoring goals. Not quite the expectation when this team started out the year with a 6-0-2 record. However, the wheels began to fall off when Thomas Vanek suffered a broken jaw against the Ottawa Senators.
Gone was the team's leading scorer and his 32 goals vanished with him. Having one of the brightest goaltender in the league, Ryan Miller, it wasn't all expected to go sour. It goes without saying that Miller gives the Sabres a chance to win every night.
But Miller would suffer a high ankle sprain precisely two weeks after Vanek's injury. Indeed, it turned into a domino-effect. Scott Gomez upended the franchise goaltender behind his own net.
What did the Sabres do in response? Nothing.
Standing there as if unharmed by the incident, they watched as the largest component to their playoff hopes lie on the ice clutching his ankle.
What sort of a message would this send to the opposing teams? Something along the lines of, ' we can do what ever we want to these guys'.
It's the sad truth. By failing to take any action on the New York Rangers, Buffalo opened the door for future opponents to run them over.
Patrick Lalime was acclaimed the new starter in Miller's absence. From his days with the Senators, faith wasn't a word many fans would put in a sentence with Lalime's name.
Our postseason aspirations were now led by a man who had a 4-18 record in 2005/2006. His first start under these circumstances came against the Anaheim Ducks.
Mind you, his team didn't do much to help his cause. Just over a minute into the game, Toni Lydman coughed up the puck and Teemu Selanne had a breakaway.
Your first test is one-on-one with a player who scored 76 goals in his rookie year. Lalime couldn't be blamed for that one, but the two goals which followed were soft ones.
Buffalo competed harder, and took the play to the Ducks, but ultimately fell 3-2.
Two days later, the Sabres visited the Carolina Hurricanes, and Lalime had a much stronger outing in this one. With the game tied at one after 65 minutes, a shootout would decide the second point.
Jussi Jokinen scored the lone goal, and Lalime's 31-save effort went to waste.
Finally, the loss which really struck a fatal blow to the Sabres last night. Taking on the New York Islanders, Yann Danis backstopped the team ranked 30th in the NHL to a 2-0 victory.
Again, Lalime made 30-plus saves and couldn't be at fault for his team's uninspired play.
So, with a 0-2-1 record without Miller, the Sabres are anticipating a return from Vanek this upcoming week. It may be just the spark they need with an offense that's firing blanks.
Will it be enough? Who knows. This group is more than capable of turning it around with a few high-scoring affairs.
The question many may ask themselves is this: If the Buffalo Sabres can't defeat the Islanders without Miller, who can they beat?