The Buffalo Sabres are having trouble scoring goals lately, and combined with some recently shaky defensive efforts, they've been in a slump that's lasted since mid-November.
They're hoping a new month - and a pleasant memory - will help end their offensive drought.
The Sabres will look for their third consecutive home win on Monday when they open December against the Nashville Predators, who they ripped for eight goals in their lone meeting last season.
Buffalo (11-9-3) didn't suffer its first regulation loss until Oct. 27, starting 6-0-2 while looking like a contender in the Northeast Division. But the Sabres have since gone just 5-9-1, including a five-game losing streak from Nov. 14-22.
They've scored two goals or fewer in nine of those 15 games, and after hitting the three-goal mark in wins over Boston and Pittsburgh last week, fell 3-2 at Montreal on Saturday despite a pair of early goals from Thomas Vanek.
"We had the lead twice and let them come back, and when you let a team as good as Montreal come back in it, chances are you're going to lose," Vanek said.
Vanek has been a rare offensive bright spot for the Sabres lately, and he's also shown he's one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL. The fifth overall pick in the 2003 entry draft has a league-high 18 goals, including three in his last two games.
He didn't find the back of the net in Buffalo's latest meeting with Nashville (11-10-2), but he helped set up the Sabres' first two goals, and that was just the beginning. Buffalo scored six more times on Feb. 27 at HSBC Arena in an 8-4 rout.
Defense has been the problem for the Predators a quarter of the way through the 2008-09 season. They're allowing 3.26 goals per game, the second-worst average in the Western Conference.
Nashville had given up just six goals while going 2-0-1 from Nov. 23-28, but that's how many Minnesota scored in 60 minutes on Saturday. Goaltender Dan Ellis had never given up more than five goals in his career before the 6-2 loss to the Wild.
The Predators came into the game with the best home penalty-killing percentage (89.5) in the league, giving up four goals in 38 chances. Minnesota, however, went 5-for-11 with the man advantage, the most power-play goals Nashville has allowed at home in franchise history.
"We got beaten by a very good team with a very good power play," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We took way too many penalties, and those compounded our problems."
The Sabres have scored a power-play goal in their last two games, but in their last 10, they're just 5-for-38 (13.2 percent) with the man advantage. Eight of their 21 power-play goals have come courtesy of Vanek.
One sign of progress for Buffalo's offense has been the improved play of center Derek Roy, who led the team with 81 points last season. Roy had eight points in his first 15 games, but he has four goals and five assists in his last eight contests.
Predators center Jason Arnott, who leads the team with 12 goals, has four in his last four games. He scored twice in the loss at Buffalo last season.
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