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Sharpen Up: February 20, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

The Sabres enter the bye week with 62 points after 60 games and are within striking distance of a playoff spot. They're four points behind Boston with one more game played for third place in the Atlantic Division and three points back of Toronto with two more games play for the second and final Wild Card spot.

It's been a busy three weeks for the Sabres as last night's loss to Chicago wrapped up a 12-game-in-20-day stretch since the All-Star Break. They went 6-5-1 over that span that includes a 4-2-0 record over the last nine days. 

That's a lot of hockey. And although they have a few days off now, the pace doesn't lighten up much once they come back. They play seven games in 11 days after the bye, starting Saturday night at Colorado. 

It's going to be one heck of a ride. 

Here's what you need to know.

Video: BUF Recap: Kane scores Sabres' lone goal in 5-1 loss

With his goal (his 21st of the season, surpassing his total from last year), Evander Kane has 15 points (9+6) in his last 14 games. The goal tied Kane for fifth in the NHL with 20 even-strength goals this season. So far in the month of February, no one has more goals than Kane's seven and he's second in shots with his 40 (Brent Burns has 46).

Jack Eichel's assist gave him 18 points (5+13) in his last 18 games and 19 points (7+12) in 20 home games this season. Eichel leads all NHL players with 11 assists in February.

And Rasmus Ristolainen's assist gave him points in seven straight home games (1+6).

Video: Evander Kane (2/19/17)

Buffalo fell behind early on, but managed to make it a 1-1 game with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first on Kane's goal. However, it was pretty much all Blackhawks from there as they scored the next four goals - two more in the second and another pair of tallies in the third. 

The Sabres' focus is on the big picture. From Jourdon LaBarber's game recap:

Video: LEHNER: Postgame

"We'll forget about this one," said goalie Robin Lehner, who made 32 saves in the loss. "It's unfortunate, a hell of a hockey club out there. We've got a lot to learn from a team like that, how they play and how they do things. You know what, we've been playing good hockey lately and we can't get away from ourselves here for one game. 

"After the break, it starts again. We've got to string games together and I think we're going to do that. I think we have the ability to do that. We're back in the race, so, this game, it would be nice to win but it doesn't change anything."

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame

"It was a challenge and a measuring stick against a really good team and we come on the wrong end of it. Still, we're four of our last six, we've had a good stretch of games here and those were important games for us to win," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.

"Guys have played hard hockey and they've gotten wins and that's exactly what we needed to do to try and get ourselves into the mix."

Video: EICHEL: Postgame

" … Just take this time to, like I said, relax a bit and just get ready for that final however many games it is and make a playoff push," Eichel said. "We've done some good things and we're starting to find ourselves. That consistency just needs to be there every night."


Resting up

Buffalo won't practice again until Friday afternoon in Denver as they get set for Saturday night's contest against the Avalanche. That opens up a back-to-back on the road that ends Sunday evening in Arizona. Then Buffalo heads back home for a match next Tuesday against Nashville. 

And then guess what? The Trade Deadline is March 1.


On tap today

Check out Kris Baker's Sabres Prospects Report later this morning. Nothing new, but he's got hands down the best coverage around when it comes to the guys in junior, college and overseas. He'll mix in some Amerks coverage as well on his Twitter feed.

Speaking of the Amerks (and we'll have more on them in tomorrow's Amerks Update), but they won last night and they'll be playing in Buffalo on Wednesday against the Utica Comets at 7:05 p.m.

Get your tickets for that game at KeyBank Center here.



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