It's been a pretty good month so far for the Buffalo Sabres. The team improved to 3-1-1 in their last five games with a 5-2 win last night over the St. Louis Blues. Yes, all five of those games have been played in the month of December.
Jack Eichel kept his point streak alive by recording two goals (his 19th and 20th of the season), including the game winner. He owns the NHL's longest active point streak, which now stands at 14 games. Since it began on Nov. 16, the Sabres captain has recorded 25 points (12+13).
The team will practice today before hosting the Nashville Predators on Thursday for Aud Night. Tickets for that game are on sale now.
Here's what you need to know.
About last night
Video: Eichel extends point streak as Sabres take down Blues
From the Postgame Report…
Jack Eichel lined up for a defensive-zone faceoff with a minute remaining against the reigning Stanley Cup champions on Tuesday. The Sabres were seeking to protect a one-goal lead, and Eichel was tasked with winning a draw against former teammate Ryan O'Reilly.
The puck dropped and bounced between O'Reilly's legs. Johan Larsson boxed out his man and pounced on it, poking it back to defenseman Henri Jokiharju. Larsson was tossing the puck toward an empty net a few seconds later, which Zemgus Girgensons buried off the post.
It was a crucial moment in what ended as a 5-2 win for the Sabres, and Eichel and Larsson - two players who extended personal point streaks - were fitting participants.
"He's the best in the league for a reason," Eichel said, referring to O'Reilly's faceoff prowess. "I'm just trying to bear down, not lose it clean. I had some really good help by wingers on that first one. It was a great play by Larry to push it back. He drives to the dot and it's a fifty-fifty puck. It's a huge play by him."
Video: POSTGAME: Eichel
Video: POSTGAME: Ullmark
Eichel added a second empty-net goal for his second of the night and 20th of the season, extending his career-best point streak to 14 games (more on that later). Larsson also had a goal and an assist, giving him nine points in his last seven outings and his first three-game point streak since 2016.
But perhaps even more so than any offensive contributions, the win was a testament to the Sabres' willingness to trust their game plan against premier competition. They surrendered leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and responded each time, then protected a 3-2 lead for the last 14:14 of the contest.
The Sabres have now earned points in eight of their last 10 games, including back-to-back wins over division leaders from the Western Conference in Edmonton and St. Louis.
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
Video: POSTGAME: Larsson
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said the team's perseverance is a testament to players' willingness to buy into the small picture he's promoted all season: Focus on the opponent at hand, improve each day, and trust the results will come. Simple concepts, but difficult to put into practice.
"To get there on a daily basis in this league is really difficult," Krueger said. "You could just feel the guys in that space. They believe in what we're all doing here together and they're working really hard for it.
"Coming back from the west, three [games] in four [days], and I thought we had more energy than they did down the stretch and that was a sign of the work these guys are doing to prepare for these kinds of challenges. The mind is only strong if the body is still performing. That combination has to happen, and it certainly did tonight."
Click here to read the full recap.
From our friends @SabresPR…
- Eichel scored twice last night, becoming the third player in the NHL to reach the 20-goal mark this season and extending his career-best point streak to 14 games (12+13).
- He's now one game shy of Patrick Kane's 15-game streak for the longest in the NHL this season.
- Eichel's second goal was the 13th empty-net goal of his career, tying Gilbert Perreault and Miroslav Satan for the most empty-netters in Sabres history.
- With his goal and an assist, Sam Reinhart now has five points (3+2) in his last four games.
- After recording two assists, Victor Olofsson now has 18 points (6+12) in his last 17 games, including two-point performances in four of the team's last five games.
- With a two-point performance (1+1) against the Blues, Johan Larsson has recorded his first three-game point streak since November 2016. He now has nine points (2+7) and a plus-9 rating in Buffalo's last seven contests.
- Linus Ullmark made 28 saves in the win. He has now stopped 79 of 85 shots (.929) in his three career meetings with St. Louis.
- Ullmark is now 5-1-1 with a .923 save percentage in his last seven appearances.
What's next? Aud Night!
As part of the Golden Season, the Sabres will be celebrating Aud Night on Thursday when the team hosts the Nashville Predators. Faceoff is at 7 p.m., but fans will want to arrive early for pregame festivities.
Before the game, the main Blue Zone Bar will host a happy hour with $5 Labatt drafts from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and live '80s music. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will also receive a special edition jersey koozie, courtesy of Labatt. All fans in attendance will find a T-shirt at their seat, and its color (red, blue, gold or orange) will correspond with a seating level of the Aud.
Click here for full details.
The following alumni from the 1980s are scheduled to attend and will greet fans in the 100 level concourse and on the 200 level in the Seneca Sports Lounge before the game:
John Van Boxmeer
The alumni will then be honored on the ice before a special '80s-themed video open.
Check out a gallery of photos from the 1980s here.
Get your tickets today.
Dahlin returns to the ice
Video: RASMUS DAHLIN
From our story here on Sabres.com yesterday…
Rasmus Dahlin stayed in Buffalo while his teammates traveled to the other side of the continent this past week, still recovering from the concussion he sustained in Tampa on Nov. 25.
He watched the games on television and tried to make the most of them, though it wasn't easy. His roommate, Casey Mittelstadt, said the defenseman had been "bouncing off the walls."
"I was home alone, and it was boring," Dahlin admitted Tuesday. "It's good to have them back."
Dahlin skated with the Sabres for the first time since his injury on Tuesday morning. He still has not been cleared from for contact and remains day-to-day, but simply sharing the ice with his teammates was enough to have him excited.
"I woke up this morning at 6:30," Dahlin said. "I was nervous, it felt like Christmas. Good to be back. I was really happy to skate with the boys today."
Dahlin's injury occurred with the Sabres on a power play during their game against the Lightning. He carried the puck low into the offensive zone and had just passed it off when defenseman Eric Cernak stepped up and delivered an elbow to his head.
Cernak was not initially penalized for the play, though he did receive a two-game suspension from the Department of Player Safety the following day.
We'll have more for you later today in the Ice Level Practice Report when the team hits the ice at KeyBank Center at noon.
Amerks host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight
Anchored by the goaltending duo of veteran Andrew Hammond and third-year pro Jonas Johansson, the Rochester Americans own one of the top defenses in the league, having allowed 56 goals through the first 23 games of the season, the second-fewest in the AHL.
Last Wednesday's shutout against Toronto was Hammond's third in his last seven appearances, matching his season total with the Iowa Wild last season.
He boasts an 8-2-2 record this season while ranking second among all netminders in shutouts (3) and tied for 11th in wins (8). In his last seven games, Hammond has posted five wins, three shutouts, a 1.42 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
Fresh off his first AHL shutout Friday against Charlotte, Johansson improved his record to an AHL-best 7-2-2 while also upping his personal win streak to five games. Coming into week, he owns the third-best goal-against average in the league (2.10) and is seventh with a .924 save percentage.
We have more on that in our weekly Amerks Update.
The Amerks close out their season-long four-game homestand tonight as they welcome the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to Blue Cross Arena for the only time this season. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be carried live on The Sports Leader AM 950/95.7 FM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.
For ticket information, visit Amerks.com.