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Buffalo Sabres season snapshot

Eichel, Dahlin bright spots for Buffalo under first-year coach Krueger

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

With the NHL pausing the 2019-20 regular season on March 12 due to the concerns surrounding the coronavirus, NHL.com is taking stock of each of the League's 31 teams.

Today, a snapshot of the Buffalo Sabres at the pause:

 

Buffalo Sabres

Record: 30-31-8, 68 points

Playoff position: 13 points behind Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for first wild card into Stanley Cup Playoffs from Eastern Conference

The Sabres started the season with so much promise, only to see their early success turn into frustration. With new coach Ralph Krueger providing optimism, they were 8-1-1 after a 4-3 overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 23.

Since then, the Sabres have gone 22-30-7, including two six-game stretches without a win (Oct. 28-Nov. 14 and Feb. 26-March 7), and are on pace to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. Buffalo has not qualified for the postseason since 2010-11, when it lost in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games.

 

More Sabres season snapshot coverage: Awards | Fantasy honors | Memorable moments

 

In what has been a disappointing season on many levels, center Jack Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin have been bright spots for the Sabres.

Eichel has 78 points (36 goals, 42 assists), tied for 10th in the NHL. The center had 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) in his first 35 games, including 31 (16 goals, 15 assists) during an NHL season-high 17-game point streak Nov. 16-Dec. 17, and was among the leading candidates for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. But the 23-year-old had 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in the next 33 games, including an NHL career-high seven-game point drought Feb. 23-March 7. 

After being selected No. 1 by the Sabres in the 2018 NHL Draft, Dahlin responded in his rookie season by becoming the third 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history to reach the 40-point mark (44 points; nine goals, 35 assists). He reached it again this season with 40 points (four goals, 36 assists) in 59 games.

Video: Top 10 Sabres Plays ... Thus Far

 

Breakout player

Victor Olofsson: The forward is tied for fourth among NHL rookies with 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 54 games. His 11 power-play goals are tied for the Sabres lead with Eichel and tied for 11th in the NHL. The 24-year-old is a prime example of a late-round bloomer. Selected in the seventh round (No. 181) by Buffalo in the 2014 NHL Draft, he is paying dividends five years later. 

 

Statement win

Sabres 5, St. Louis Blues 2, Dec. 10: Eichel scored two goals to extend his point streak to 14 games and help the host Sabres defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions. Eichel's first goal, at 5:56 of the third period, broke a 2-2 tie and was the first of three straight goals for Buffalo, which outshot St. Louis 33-30.

Video: Eichel extends point streak as Sabres take down Blues

 

Most compelling game

Sabres 3, Edmonton Oilers 2 (OT), Jan. 2:. Any time Eichel and Connor McDavid meet, the matchup always seems to be intriguing. This game was no exception. The game between McDavid, the No. 1 pick by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft, and Eichel, taken No. 2 by the Sabres in 2015, ended in storybook fashion when Eichel split McDavid and defenseman Oscar Klefbom, who hooked the Buffalo captain from behind at 1:09 of overtime. Eichel was awarded a penalty shot and beat goalie Mike Smith to give the Sabres the victory.

Video: Eichel scores on OT penalty shot, Sabres top Oilers

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