By John Vogl
BOSTON – The Sabres’ record-setting injury problems in goal had reached a laughable state at the start of today’s game. When Buffalo athletic trainer Tim Macre called for a stretcher to get Matt Hackett off the ice, the situation wasn’t funny anymore.
The goaltender suffered what appeared to be a major leg injury with 11:35 left in a 4-1 loss to Boston. The Bruins’ Torey Krug, skating toward the net at full speed, tripped over Buffalo defenseman Jamie McBain and flew into Hackett’s right leg.
“For a second I thought he was OK, and then he started screaming,” Krug said. “You never want to see stuff like that happen, no matter how it happens. It’s tough.”
Hackett stayed facedown for several minutes as seven people tended to his injury. They eventually lifted the goalie onto a stretcher as he covered his face in pain.
Hackett flew home with the Sabres after getting medical attention in TD Garden.
“We’re going to wrap him up as best as we can, get him back home, get our doctors to look at him, but it doesn’t look too good,” said Nolan, who added the leg wasn’t broken.
While Hackett’s injury was the most serious, it was far from the only one. Four other Sabres left the penultimate game – defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) and forwards Chris Stewart (ankle), Brian Flynn (lower body) and Matt D’Agostini (lower body). None will be available for Sunday’s season finale against the New York Islanders in First Niagara Center.
“It’s a tough enough year on us in our situation with the standings, but also to lose bodies the way we’ve been doing is an unfortunate thing, too,” McBain said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my career. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
The undermanned Sabres had a nearly empty bench by the end of the game. Officials ejected Jake McCabe with 12:43 remaining with a major interference penalty after a hit on Daniel Paille, who wobbled off the ice with help from teammates. John Scott followed McCabe to the dressing room with 3:40 remaining with a 10-minute misconduct for talking with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who also got booted.
“We were playing with basically two lines the last half of the period, guys dropping with injuries and penalties,” right wing Drew Stafford said. “That’s a heck of a team over there. It’s going to be a challenge with four lines and six D, let alone we’ve got two lines and four D.”
There was no word on who would be the Sabres’ second goaltender today. The Rochester Americans, who are in in a playoff battle, also have a 5 p.m. start, with their game in Cleveland against Lake Erie.
Connor Knapp replaced Hackett, and backup’s first appearance on an NHL roster sheet was one for the books. Knapp became the ninth netminder to dress for the injury-plagued Sabres, who set an NHL record for most goalies used in one season.
“I’m setting records right away when I get in,” the goalie said with a grin before the game. “It’s a crazy year, for sure, within the organization.”
It got crazier with Hackett’s departure.
“All the guys feel pretty terrible about something like that happening, especially with everything that’s happened already,” Knapp said. “Definitely not the way you want to play your first NHL minutes. To see Hack go down like that, it’s tough.
“That’s probably the majority of how injuries happen. We’re so focused on the puck, and a lot of times our save selections put us in a vulnerable position to get hit. It’s not a great defensive posture to be down on your knees like that. There’s really not much you can do.”
Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Ryan Vinz, Jaroslav Halak, Michal Neuvirth, Nathan Lieuwen, Hackett and Makarov were the other eight goalies to dress for the Sabres this season.
Knapp stopped six of seven shots, and the goal he allowed officially made him part of the Sabres’ lost season. David Krejci’s point blast bounced off the back boards, hit Knapp’s leg and went in the net.
“Jeez, I’ve watched so many Bruins games that I should have figured it was coming right back out,” Knapp said. “Unfortunate bounce. It’s tough to let in an early one in your first NHL game.”
Fortunately for the Sabres, the bad bounces and terrible luck will soon be over. Today is their last 2013-14 game.
“We couldn’t have turned it around no matter what,” Nolan said. “Sometimes a clean bill of health in the summertime and we'll go forward the next year.”