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SABRES SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS HEADING INTO CAROLINA

by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Buffalo Sabres have a chance pick up their first win of the season and build some confidence against a Carolina Hurricanes team that’s dealing with injuries to some of their top players.

Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner have yet to play this regular season and Eric Staal will not suit up due to an upper-body injury. Eric Staal and Skinner finished first and second in scoring for Carolina last season.

The Hurricanes will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen Tuesday night when they face the Sabres at 7:30 p.m. at PNC Arena (TV: NBCSN; Radio: WGR 550).

Buffalo has had its share of problems through three games this season that they’re trying to sort out.

The Sabres have been outshot 131-57 in those three games, but the offensive woes aren’t the most troubling aspect for the group. A solid work ethic hasn’t been present enough in the minds of the coaches and the leadership group in the dressing room.

Nolan had a 45-minute meeting with his captains after Monday afternoon’s loss to Anaheim and he followed that up with another meeting with the coaching staff, in which they looked at all areas for answers to the problems facing the team.

Captain Brian Gionta is focused on making sure his team is doing the proper things both on and off the ice so that they can get things moving in the right direction.

“There’s got to be some urgency. There’s got to be a care factor. At some point, it’s got to equate to the ice and you’ve got to play with that edge,” Gionta said. “It’s early in the year and if we can get it corrected now, now’s the time to do it. We’re three games in so there’s no sense of panic, but at the same time, there should be a sense of urgency.”

Alternate captain Josh Gorges has also talked amongst the group to try and figure out where the real issues are. He’s led by example on the ice. His pairing with Tyler Myers has been Buffalo’s sturdiest.

Gorges stressed the fact that even though they’ve played talented teams like Columbus, Chicago and Anaheim to start the season, the one thing the team can control is how hard they work.

“It comes down to wanting to more than the other team,” he said.

“That’s something that we shouldn’t have to deal with, but for whatever reason, that’s the situation that we’re in. Collectively as a group, we’re going to push forward. Today’s a new day. We’ve got a big challenge against us here again tonight and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to compete. You’ve got to find that fine line between being desperate and being smart.”


PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Gorges said that players first need to look to themselves and their individual play to ensure they're holding themselves accountable.

“…Each individual guy in this room has to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Am I doing enough to help this team win?’ And the answer has to be yes. If it’s not, you’ve got to find a way to make it, ‘Yes. I am.’

“You can’t look at the guy across the room and point fingers and say, ‘He’s not doing his job or he’s not doing [his job].’ ‘It’s me. I’ve got to do my job.’ And if we each do our job and compete, we’ll be OK.”


STRACHAN'S DEBUT
Some lineup changes will be made for the game against Carolina. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros will be a healthy scratch and Tyson Strachan will get his first opportunity to play for the blue and gold.

“The only thing we have as a coaching is our words and our interactions,” Nolan said. “Meszaros is not going to be the first casualty. We just need him playing better but we can’t sit out 10 guys. We only have a limited group so nobody’s safe from that position. I mean nobody.

“Hopefully they compete. I never lost sight of the fact that this is a good group of guys. For whatever reason, it’s not working and we have to find the solution to that problem.”

Strachan, signed as a free agent in the summer, is looking forward to the chance to help make a difference.

“I think I bring a bit of composure back there,” he said. “I’m going to bring a physical nature, play strong defensively and move the puck well. Just watching the games, that’s something that can help us – maybe a little experience and making good decisions.”


CENTERS OF ATTENTION
Cody Hodgson, who began playing on the wing last season, will move back to center. Marcus Foligno, who missed Monday’s game due to injury, will be back in the lineup and playing with Hodgson and Chris Stewart. Nolan hopes that having those two on his wings will help jumpstart Hodgson’s offense. Hodgson led the team in scoring last season.

“A goal scorer needs someone to get him the puck and right now, with the center ice situation that we have, we can’t get him the puck somehow,” Nolan said. “Maybe put him with some bigger wingers, maybe the wingers can get him the puck and he can have an opportunity to do his thing – and that’s shooting and scoring. And it’s his natural position.”

The coaching staff will look to limit rookie Sam Reinhart’s ice time as he continues to adjust to the NHL game. The 18-year-old center was the second-overall pick in this year’s draft and is still finding his footing. Nolan said they still plan to use him in some key situations.

Jhonas Enroth will start in goal. He served as the backup Monday afternoon. In his last start, he made 41 saves.

Cam Ward will guard the other net.


TUESDAY’S PROJECTED LINEUP
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
17 Torrey Mitchell – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers/65 Brian Flynn – 23 Sam Reinhart – 8 Cody McCormick

4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan

1 Jhonas Enroth
34 Michal Neuvirth

Healthy Scratches: 41 Andrej Meszaros, 51 Nikita Zadorov
Injured Reserve: 3 Mark Pysyk, 29 Jake McCabe, 31 Matt Hackett, 36 Patrick Kaleta

Pysyk made the trip with the team and took part in the morning skate. He’s been out with an upper-body injury since Sept. 23. Nolan said he is very close to returning to game action; he just needs some practice reps in contact drills.

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