Buffalo Sabres' Injuries Present a Pre-Playoff Dilemma

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Buffalo Sabres' Injuries Present a Pre-Playoff Dilemma
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Less than a week before the NHL playoffs begin and the Buffalo Sabres finally have gotten hit by the injury bug.

Thomas Vanek is set to return from a lower body injury on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, but that still leaves a number of the Sabres' key players out of the lineup.

Jochen Hecht (upper body), Tim Connolly (foot), and Patrick Kaleta (hand) have all been ruled out for the rest of the regular season.

“There’s always concern when key personnel go out of your lineup and you’re making adjustments,”  head coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News on Thursday. “It’s a tough time of year. At the same time, you hope it’s short term and you hope you can get through them.”

While the team, along with the fans, hopes that the injuries are short term, either way they will present an interesting conundrum for Buffalo before the playoffs.

If the three forwards return for the first round, then which players do the Sabres send down?

The first two obvious choices are Mark Mancari and Nathan Gerbe. They have been solid, but their lack of experience won't be helpful in the playoffs.

But the third player to be sent down isn’t as easy a choice.

Rookie Tyler Ennis has joined Mancari and Gerbe as the third Portland Pirate to be called up in recent weeks; but unlike the other two, Ennis has consistently produced in his time with the big club, with seven points in seven games.

But if Ennis were to stay, then another player would have to go.

Matt Ellis is the first name that comes to mind, especially if Kaleta comes back to the lineup, but there are a couple of other players also at risk of being sent down.

And then there’s the other possibility that not all three key players are ready by the start of the first round—or even worse, none of them.

If the three injured players are ruled out, Ruff will have to pull some magic tricks out of his sleeve and find a way to incorporate Mancari, Gerbe and Ennis into the lineup in a way that won't throw off the team's chemistry.

The next week should be very interesting for the Sabres, to say the least.

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