The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the biggest disappointments during the first quarter of the season and will look to start turning things around when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. Buffalo has dropped five games in a row (0-3-2), scoring one goal in four of them, and have plummeted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Sabres first-year coach Phil Housley told reporters the slump is testing his patience as his team is last in the league in scoring at 2.3 goals per game, with none coming from a defenseman. “We’ve had our chances, but we definitely need to generate more offense,” Sabres left wing Evander Kane told Buffalo News. “A lot of that has to do with execution, a lot of that has to do with taking the puck to the net instead of playing along the perimeter. I think we play along the perimeter too much.” Columbus has rebounded from a four-game losing streak by winning three straight - allowing a total of two goals - after Friday’s 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers. The Blue Jackets defeated the Sabres for the fourth time in five meetings on Oct. 25 as defenseman Seth Jones registered a goal and an assist in a 5-1 triumph.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet, FSN Ohio (Columbus), MSG (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (12-7-1): Sergei Bobrovsky (11-4-1, .933 save percentage) has allowed just four goals in his last four games, prompting coach John Tortorella to tell reporters that ”He has a mental toughness about him that I’ve seen him develop in the last three years.” Artemi Panarin has scored a goal in two of his last three games and leads the team with 14 points - two more than Jones, Zach Werenski and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Werenski has recorded six goals, second on the club behind Josh Anderson, and netted the game-winner in each of the last two contests.
ABOUT THE SABRES (5-11-4): Kane tops the team with 11 goals and 19 points - three more than Jack Eichel, who has managed one tally in his last 11 games and has posted a minus-6 rating during that stretch. Ryan O’Reilly has collected eight points in the last nine games to push his season total to 15 while Jason Pominville is the only other player in double figures with 13. Buffalo also is near the bottom of the league in goals-against average (3.50), and having No. 1 defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body) sidelined for the last seven games has not helped.
1. Blue Jackets C Alexander Wennberg (upper body), who has registered nine points, is questionable after missing the last two contests.
2. Buffalo C Sam Reinhart, the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been kept off the scoresheet in six of his last seven games.
3. Columbus’ David Savard, who was a healthy scratch on Friday, is expected to be back in the lineup after fellow D Gabriel Carlsson was assigned to Cleveland of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 4, Sabres 1