Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) -- The Sabres are in the middle of eight games in a row against teams that are right around them in the standings.
So far they’ve picked up four out of six points which isn’t too bad, but if you look deeper, you’ll find they gave away points to teams right above them in the standings.
Buffalo started by beating the Islanders 3-2. The problem was the win came in overtime, so Buffalo took two points while New York got one.
In Raleigh, Evander Kane tied the game late, but the Sabres lost in a shootout, so Buffalo gets one point while Carolina takes two.
The worst one came in Sunrise. Buffalo led 3-2 needing a regulation win against a team directly in front of them. The Sabres were cruising along and all of a sudden with 3:51 left, a turnover leads to an easy Florida goal and once again, Buffalo gets one point while the Panthers get two. The Sabres are a bad first period and 3:51 away from getting two points and Florida going home with nothing.
Brian Gionta said this team has got to figure out that points are just as valuable in December, as they are in March. Dan Bylsma said, “My words to the players were we need to be more emotionally attached to the game right from the start. We’ve responded in virtually every one of our games in the last 10 at some point in the game, we get desperate, we get emotionally attached to the game.”
In the end this team still doesn’t know how to close out games. In other words, they don’t know how to win games. Bylsma said, “Right now we have to learn how to win from the start, we’re desperate in trying to come from behind, but we have to have an understanding on how we’re going to have to win the game right from the start, not wait to react.”
“We can’t wait for April 15 to come around to find out who’s going to be in the playoffs, this is a team we have to beat. They’re ahead of us in the standings, they’re right in front of us, this is a team we have to beat if we’re going to think about being a playoff team.”
Jack Eichel stood and watched Matt Moulson take his place on the number one power play unit while Marcus Foligno took Moulson’s place on the second unit. Dan Bylsma wouldn’t say if that’s what we’ll see during the game, but he did say, “Just a different look, different situational part of the game and Marcus getting an opportunity, it's something I think he earned with his last game performance, so him sliding in there on the net front."
Eichel has been held pointless in three games and looked pretty bad playing against the Barkov line in Florida.
Robin Lehner is in net going 2-0-1 in his last three starts. Overall he’s 7-9-5 with a 2.47 goals against and .921 save percentage.
The Sabres are averaging three goals per game since Eichel came back 10 games ago. Buffalo is no longer in the cellar of the NHL in goal scoring averaging 2.19 goal per game. That’s ahead of Arizona and Colorado.
Buffalo’s point percentage of .516 is 20th in the NHL ahead of Toronto, Detroit, New Jersey and the Islanders.
The Sabres are one point behind Carolina in the standings so a regulation win gets them ahead of the Hurricanes and the Red Wings.
For two games Evander Kane has been the Sabres best forward. Kane has three goals in four games and five goals in six games.
Sam Reinhart had two points in his last game against Florida and is on a pace for 45 points this season. Last year he was on a 44 point pace, but for some reason, many fans think he’s a bust at 21 years old. The knee jerk reactions that are sent to me are laughable, especially since the season isn’t even half over.
Carolina has won two of its last three games. They were supposed to play home against Detroit on December 19, but problems with the equipment that freezes the ice forced a postponement. That means Carolina’s last game was Saturday against the Sabres.
Cam Ward will be back in goal for the Canes.
Join Mike Schopp for the pregame at 6:00 when he’ll be joined by Dan Bylsma, Brian Gionta and Ryan O’Reilly.