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With Sabres searching for goals, Housley calls for shot mentality

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

For one reason or another, wins at home have been hard to come by for the Buffalo Sabres this season. They've lost three straight games to open their five-game homestand after being shut out by the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, scoring a combined three goals in the process.

The fact that they have faltered at home after seemingly establishing their game during a three-game road trip in Western Canada, Ryan O'Reilly admits, is a bit backwards. Teams typically establish themselves at home and try to have it carry over to the road; the Sabres have done the opposite. 

In reality, their loss to St. Louis wasn't all that different than their wins in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They showed a commitment to defense and limited opportunities against one of the best teams in the NHL, and for nearly 55 minutes the two teams remained tied without a goal.

The difference between their current home stretch and the success they had north of the border has been their lack of goal production, and Phil Housley believes he knows the root of the problem.

"The one thing I am seeing is we're not shooting the puck enough," the Sabres coach said. "There's a lot of opportunities that we're trying to make a play and we have to put more pucks to the net and we have to get more players there. We talked about that a lot. 

"What it does is it creates offense, it creates a second opportunity. It changes defenses. And now they have to react to us. I think we need to continue to pound that message."

Video: Sabres Now (2/5/18)

Buffalo's practice on Monday was partially dedicated to that end, with a heavy emphasis on battles in front of the net. The Sabres rank last in the NHL with 71 goals at 5-on-5, which Housley believes is the product of a lack of second-chance opportunities. 

Creating those second chances not only requires getting bodies to the front of the net, but also a shot mentality.

"We cross that blue line, are we thinking shot and putting pucks to the net? It's a very simple game, but I don't think we have it," Housley said. "I think there's times we do. I thought we had it on the west coast swing. I think we're just trying to be too fine and too cute. 

"You watch the highlights, it's puck going to the net and traffic. … We've got to have more guys going there because you're going to find a way, it's going to hit you, you're going to get a rebound. Yeah, that's a tough place to play, but guys that go there get rewarded."

For players experiencing personal scoring droughts, those "dirty" goals are often the ones that turns things around. 

"When you're struggling, you've just got to go back to volume and just try and throw everything to the net, get pucks, get bodies there and hope you get one off a shin pad or whatever," Kyle Okposo said. "Just get a break. 

"You've got work for your break and then after that happens usually the chances start to come."


Tuesday is Hockey is for Everyone Night 

The Sabres will host Hockey is for Everyone Night at KeyBank Center during their game against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.  

February is the NHL's annual Hockey is for Everyone month, which promotes the inclusion of players, coaches and fans of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and those with disabilities. 

O'Reilly is serving as Buffalo's team ambassador for the initiative. He spoke following practice on Monday about how being part of a family that fostered children - his parents, Brian and Bonnie, said they took in 47 kids over a 20-year span - formed his views on diversity. 

Video: BBG: Ryan O'Reilly: All-Star

"It was always, 'include everyone,'" O'Reilly said. "Everyone's together, everyone's a family, and it's a special thing to have that. I never really knew how important that was until I got older, and you see how lucky I was to have the family I have and the health and the privileges we had. To be able to share that with people was so cool. 

"I hope I can give my kids that one day, to be able to experience that, to be able to get along with everyone who comes from different backgrounds or are struggling in certain areas of their life. It's something that's very important and I'm very thankful for."

More information on Hockey is for Everyone night can be found here.



Lines at practice

9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
20 Scott Wilson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 10 Jacob Josefson - 17 Jordan Nolan
22 Johan Larsson

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Justin Falk - 19 Jake McCabe
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 8 Casey Nelson
4 Josh Gorges - 93 Victor Antipin

40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson

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