The Buffalo Sabres opened their season without Jack Eichel, Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov, and before the first game of the campaign was through, Evander Kane was heading to hospital to be evaluated after a hard collision with the boards behind the Montreal Canadiens net.
Late in the second period of Thursday’s game, the Sabres were trying to break down the ice when Ryan O’Reilly flipped a puck up ice in an attempt to send Kane around the Canadiens’ defense. However, Montreal blueliner Alexei Emelin was about to keep up in a brief footrace with Kane, and as the two battled for the puck, Emelin shoved Kane to the ice and sent him hard into the boards.
Immediately after contacting the boards, Kane was writhing on the ice in pain and the Sabres medical staff hopped onto the ice to help the 25-year-old winger:
According to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl, Kane was placed on a stretcher after leaving the ice and taken to hospital, where he was set to undergo a medical evaluation. Vogl reported that Kane’s ribs were being checked for any signs of injury.
For Sabres fans, an injured Kane has become a familiar sight. After being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in 2015, Kane missed the entire remainder of the season following shoulder surgery. Then, less than a month into the 2015-16 campaign, Kane wound up on the shelf with a knee injury. Kane was also out six games to end the past campaign with an upper-body injury.
It’s especially tough to lose Kane at a time like this, though. While Buffalo still has O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart in the lineup, most of the team’s top offensive threats are now battling some form of ailment. Okposo could potentially make his return Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers, but Eichel is set to be out for upwards of a month, possibly even more, and there’s no telling what sort of shape Kane is in right now.
Suffering through all of these injuries will be tough on the Sabres, especially ahead of what looked to be the start of a very interesting season in Buffalo. After finishing dead-last in the league with 54 points in 2014-15, the Sabres saw a 27-point improvement in 2015-16. The hope was another jump up the standings this season could put the Sabres in position to battle for a wild-card spot.
“You know you’re going to have injuries,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsam said, according to Vogl. “You expect to have them throughout your lineup. Unfortunately, you have a rash of them, but that’s no excuse for how we need to play, how we can play. We’ve got to keep fighting through it.”
UPDATE: Bylsma announced Friday afternoon that Kane has three cracked out and will be sidelined for weeks, according the Buffalo News' Mike Harrington.
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