Wednesday served as a day off the ice for the Buffalo Sabres. After a tough loss to the Blues in St. Louis the night before, the Sabres reconvened for a team meeting at KeyBank Center as they prepare for a four-game homestand that begins Thursday against Tampa Bay.
Video: Sabres in :90 (11/16/16)
The Sabres have struggled to put the puck in the net during their current five-game winless streak. They're 0-3-2 over that stretch and have only scored five goals.
"We've got to find a way to create second and third opportunities. We've got to bear down on the opportunities we do get," captain Brian Gionta said. "But it's collective as a group. It's not on one guy. It's not on one line. We all need to be better and find ways to score more goals, for sure."
Over the last five games, the Sabres have been outscored 16-5.
"I don't think there's any real reason or answer as to why or what has happened. We're playing teams where we're in tight-matched games and we get ourselves in situations where we're making mental lapses," alternate captain Josh Gorges said. "We're not making clean play when we need to. We're not making the smart plays when we need to.
"Part of it is, the confidence to make the right plays and to do the things - we need to get back to believing in what we do, sticking together and playing the right way throughout the whole game."
Two of the games during the current winless streak ended 2-1 and the loss in St. Louis was a 1-1 game heading into the third period. Then, as Gorges referenced, the Sabres made some costly mistakes that St. Louis was able to capitalize on in the third period. Buffalo is 2-2-4 in one-goal games this season.
"I think all the games have felt pretty similar. The ones we've won 2-1 and the ones we've lost 2-1 - we're in the game, we're battling in the game, it's a tight game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
"That's really where we need to play every game at this point in time with the team that we have. That's what they feel like. You feel the same thing again yesterday. We're 1-1 going into the third period and you've got to try to slug out a win with one or two goals. That's kind of how they've felt now for a couple weeks."
Video: BYLSMA: After Practice
When Bylsma mentions "the team that we have," it's referencing in large part the injury replacements that are currently up with the club. Buffalo is currently without forwards Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel, Tyler Ennis and Nicolas Deslauriers, and defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian.
O'Reilly skated on his own before the team meeting and while Bylsma said his condition is progressing, it's unlikely that he will play tomorrow. Kulikov is "not better than day to day" according to the coach and Ennis, Deslauriers and Bogosian are all out at least a few more weeks.
Bylsma said that Eichel is upping his skating regimen and is making progress, but still has some work to do as he recovers from a high ankle sprain sustained the day before the season opener.
The Sabres might get a break Thursday night because it doesn't look like Steven Stamkos will be available. The Lightning captain sustained a lower-body injury early in the team's game last night and returned to Tampa today for further evaluation, according to the team.
Whether Stamkos is playing or not, Gorges knows they have a big task in front of them. The Lightning are third in the division with 21 points and have won two in a row.
"That's a really good team that we're facing tomorrow and we've got to come with our best effort," Gorges said. "When we get ourselves prepared for tomorrow, we've got to focus on what we do best. We've got to come and be willing to compete, be willing to grind out a game. We want it to be a close-scoring game. We don't want to play run and gun with a team like that."
Home sweet home?
The four-game homestand the Sabres are about to embark on is the longest of the year (they'll also play four in a row at home from Dec. 6-16).
It's a good opportunity for them to improve on their 1-3-2 record at KeyBank Center. Buffalo has yet to have a stretch of more than two-straight home games this season.
Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow night with the TOPS Gamenight pregame show starting at 6:30 on MSG. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has assigned defenseman Casey Nelson to the Rochester Americans (AHL).
The Amerks host Albany tonight at The Blue Cross Arena.