Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

November 21, 2011

Myers will miss 4 to 6 weeks

BUFFALO — An awkward, innocent-looking play broke defenseman Tyler Myers’ wrist. Now the 21-year-old Buffalo Sabres star, who responded to a brief benching last week by showcasing some dynamic play, is likely sidelined four to six weeks.

So much for all that defense depth the Sabres possessed just a week ago.

“We’ve taken a little hit here injury-wise,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Monday following practice at the Northtown Center.

No kidding.

Myers had surgery Monday morning. Mike Weber (upper body) is gone for weeks. So 22-year-old T.J. Brennan, who was recalled briefly Friday for emergency purposes, is the Sabres’ new sixth defenseman.

What exactly happened to Myers on Saturday during the Sabres’ 4-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes? He quietly left late in the second period.

“Nothing you would ever notice, just one of those freak-like incidents,” Ruff said.

The first major injury of Myers’ three-year career comes just as he started recapturing an elite form. He had played terribly earlier this month, generating little offense while becoming a defensive liability. But last Monday’s healthy scratch lit a fire underneath him.

“He was physical, he was knocking people around,” Ruff said about Myers’ play late last week. “Offensively, I thought he skated really well. That part hurts because it did (work). That was a tough awakening for him, but I thought he responded really well to it.”

Myers’ physical play could be sorely missed in Wednesday’s much-anticipated game against the Boston Bruins, the teams’ first meeting since the Sabres failed to respond after Milan Lucic’s wicked open-ice hit left goalie Ryan Miller concussed.

“Obviously, that part hurts us,” Ruff said. “I still think it’s going to be a hard game. They’re playing well. They’re probably the best team in the league right now the way they’re playing. We expect to have a battle.”

Clearly, the Sabres didn’t want to discuss the Bruins on Monday. Their feckless response to Lucic’s big hit – no Sabre fought the hulking winger or retaliated in any meaningful way, despite seeing their franchise netminder laid out on the ice woozy – has embarrassed them.

Many expect some retribution on Lucic and the Bruins this time.

“We need to win a game,” said Ruff, who said he’ll address the game specifically Wednesday. “First and foremost, that’s the game plan.”

Assistant captain Paul Gaustad, one of the Sabres on the ice for Lucic’s hit, has endured scads of criticism recently. The center was apologetic after that game, saying he should’ve done more.

On Monday, he refused to talk about payback, giving only general answers about winning and treating the game like any other.

“I don’t know what the fans are wanting,” Gaustad said. “We just want to get a win.”

He added later: “What we have to do is really address it as taking care of our business of executing the game. I mean, we’re trying to win the two points.”

Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr said preparing for a game with side issues is “just the way it goes.”

“You’re always going to face issues, whether it’s injuries or trades, things like that,” he said. “We’re used to dealing with that type of stuff.”

Ruff doesn’t anticipate the NHL will warn the Sabres about their antics before Wednesday. Following a brawl-filled game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins last season, the league put both teams on notice for the rematch.

“I think we’re all smart enough,” Ruff said. “As cowboys say, ‘This ain’t my first rodeo.’”

The game will be Brennan’s first rodeo, however.

Expect the Sabres’ top four defensemen to get bigger minutes against the Bruins and possibly in the coming weeks. Brennan, the 31st pick in 2007, will skate with fellow rookie Marc-Andre Gragnani, his partner last season in Portland.

“We’ll shift the pairs,” Ruff said. “Hopefully, in situations where we’re back-to-back, three in four nights, they can get themselves 16, 17 minutes.”

Brennan had three goals, seven points and was a minus-3 in 17 games with Rochester. He enjoyed a big AHL season last year, compiling 15 goals, 39 points and a plus-7 in 72 contests.

The American understands he’s entering a pressure-cooker with the Bruins in town.

“It’s a game,” Brennan said. “You don’t treat any game differently.”

Brennan said he’ll play a simple style.

“I’ll probably just try to get the puck up,” Brennan said. “We have a lot of skilled forwards. I’ll just try to get the puck to them as quick as possible. I’m a defenseman, so keep the puck out of my net. It’s that simple.”

Having a veteran like the 31-year-old Regehr will help Brennan and the other defensemen Wednesday.

“He’s been through these battles,” Ruff said. “He’s knows how smart you have to play and sometimes how simple you have to keep it. We can’t expect too much from T.J. just stepping in. But I think at the same time, you’ve got a guy that’s been through the wars and the battles and he’s the voice of reason in games like this.”

Notes: Ruff said Miller is “doing OK.” “He’s had his neck looked at,” he said. “We’re dealing a little bit with that. Sometimes in these situations it’s tough to figure out exactly where the pain is coming from.” … Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta has been fined $2,500 by the NHL for high-sticking Derek Morris in the second period Saturday.

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