A lot has changed in a year around the Buffalo Sabres. But it's crazy to look at the NHL standings and realize how stunningly similar things are from last Christmas.
And that's not a good thing.
On Dec. 26, 2010, the Sabres were in Calgary practicing for a game against the Flames. They were 14-17-4, in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points. They were eight points out of a playoff spot and in 26th overall in the NHL.
Tonight — Dec. 26, 2011 — the injury-riddled Sabres open their post-Christmas schedule against the Washington Capitals in First Niagara Center. They're 11th in the East with 35 points. Their record is also slightly better (16-15-3) and they're only four points out of eighth. But they're 23rd overall.
As it turned out last year, the Sabres were the only Eastern Conference team out of the playoffs on Christmas who made it in April (they replaced Atlanta). They're going to have to pull a similar trick again. No one figured this for a team that has spent to the salary cap under new owner Terry Pegula.
The situation is different because the Sabres will have at least seven players out tonight and the status of leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek (shoulder) is tenuous. To turn this season around, the Sabres need to get healthy.