Sabres slowly, but surely, getting healthy

Sabres slowly, but surely, getting healthy
Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 17:55:40-05

Injuries on the blue line have been the norm for the Buffalo Sabres this season -- but they may finally be starting to get healthy.

On Thursday, the team announced that Erik Burgdoerfer, who was recalled earlier in the week, has been sent back to the American Hockey League (Rochester).

In his two games with the Sabres, Burgdoerfer finished with about 11 minutes of ice-time in each game, registering no points, and a minus-one rating.

So why did the team send him back?  The roster move Is a good indicator that one of the Sabres injured defensemen, If not two of them, should be back in the lineup  Friday night against the Washington Capitals.

Earlier in the week Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Josh Gorges would miss "weeks" with a foot injury after blocking a shot -- but he may be back sooner than originally thought.

"I feel like I could (play Friday) " Gorges told reporters after practice. "I guess we'll reevaluate things today and tomorrow morning, talk to doctors and the medical staff and get a better idea of whether that's possible or not."

But Gorges isn't the only defender on the verge of a possible comeback. On Thursday, Bylsma  hinted that Dmitry Kulikov could also return to the lineup as soon as Friday.

Kulikov, who the Sabres acquired in the offseason from the Florida Panthers, has only played in 12 games this season, and has yet to register a point.

If both Kulikov and Gorges return to the lineup, the Sabres will likely reassign Brendan Guhle back to his junior team -- his call-up was on an emergency basis and returning two defensemen would lift the Sabres out of the 'emergency'.

Bove's take:

I've REALLY liked Guhle in his first three games -- but the return of Gorges and Kulikov could prove to be a huge boost for the organization.

Before the season started Kulikov was penciled in by many, including myself, as a top four defenseman. Lingering injuries have kept the newcomer out of the lineup for more than half of the Sabres' early games -- but when he has played, Kulikov has been pretty solid.

It's hard to evaluate his game with such a small sample size, but Kulikov was brought in to be a big, physical, consistent defenseman, who can take on a 'big' workload.

The possible addition of Kulikov back into the lineup not only adds depth, but it takes some pressure off guys like Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe, who have been asked to handle the majority of the workload; both had nearly 30 minutes of ice time in Buffalo's 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

As for Gorges, he's been criticized a lot early in the season, but like Ristolainen and McCabe he's been asked to do a whole lot. Personally, I think Gorges can really thrive as a third-pair d-man who can play both 5-on-5 and the penalty kill. The veteran defender does occasionally make mistakes, and doesn't bring a whole lot offensively to the table -- but he does add grit and great shot-blocking to the lineup.

No, I don't think he should be a top-pair guy or matched with Ristolainen, but I absolutely think he should be on this team.

Now here's a question to those who have criticized Gorges (yes, it has been warranted, at times):
Who is the better option?

Don't count Guhle, his circumstances is a unique one and the Sabres won't want to burn a year of his contract -- he'll be a big piece moving forward. 

Taylor Fedun?

While some of you may think Fedun is a better option, he will remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future because of Zach Bogosian's injury -- but who else is there?

Josh Gorges is a better option than Justin Falk and Erik Burgdoerfer, at least in my opinion.

Regardless, the Sabres are FINALLY getting healthy, and are still just a few games out of a playoff spot with more than two-thirds of the season left to play.

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