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Sharpen Up: February 27, 2017

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

It was a forgettable weekend for the Buffalo Sabres. They came out of their bye week with a chance to begin their final playoff push on a road trip against the two teams with the NHL's worst records, and they returned home early Monday morning with no points to show for it. 

Unlike their loss in Colorado on Saturday, when three early goals created a hole too steep for the Sabres to climb out of against the last-place Avalanche, it was three late goals that proved to be the difference in their 3-2 loss against the Coyotes in Arizona on Sunday.

 You can get the full story in Chris Ryndak's game recap from Arizona. Buffalo held a 2-0 lead entering the third period thanks to goals from Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues, but gave up three unanswered goals in third, including Radim Vrbata's winner with 18.9 seconds remaining. 

With the loss, Buffalo now trails Boston by eight points for third place in the Atlantic Division and Toronto by seven points for the second wild card spot. So, what now?

"Like we said about any situation from here on out, you finish the game, you think about it, you talk about it and then it's got to be put in the past and we've got to get ready for our next one," alternate captain Josh Gorges said.

"We can't sit here and cry over spilt milk and feel sorry for ourselves and think by any means that this season is over. There's still a lot of hockey left to be played. We know we're going to have to make up some ground. We're going to have to make up these last two games. But we can't stop now."

You can watch all of the postgame reaction below and see what Sabres coach Dan Bylsma and his players had to say after the loss. The prevailing theme of those comments was that the team stopped doing the little things that had made them successful once they got out to their lead. 

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview

Video: GORGES: Postgame Interview

Video: EICHEL: Postgame Interview

 Video: NILSSON: Postgame Interview

Notes and numbers

Per @SabresPR, Jack Eichel's goal on Sunday extended his points streak to a career-best six games (1+6). Eichel has tallied 21 points in his 20 games overall, with six goals and 15 assists during that stretch. You can watch his goal, scored with a sharp wrister after he went end-to-end with the puck, below.

Video: BUF@ARI: Eichel goes coast-to-coast to break the ice

Eichel also earned an assist on Rodrigues' goal, marking the first time the two former Boston University teammates have connected in the NHL. Rodrigues has goals in two straight games and now has six points (3+3) in 12 career NHL games.


Lightning make a splash

With Wednesday's Trade Deadline quickly approaching, a couple of deals went down on Sunday evening. One affected Buffalo's opponent that night - the Coyotes traded their leading goal scorer, Martin Hanzal, along with forward Ryan White to Minnesota for a package of draft picks - while the other involved a division rival.

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded goalie Ben Bishop and a fifth-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goalie Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Cernak, a seventh-round pick and another conditional pick. 

Bishop had been hot for Tampa Bay - he's won his last five starts - but is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. The move signals a decision by the Lightning to make Andrei Vasilevskiy, 22, its full-time starter.

The Sabres are tied with the Lighting at 62 points in the standings, with the two teams set to meet at KeyBank Center on Saturday night.


On Tap 

We'll have a new edition of Kris Baker's prospects report posted to the site this afternoon. 

The Sabres return to the ice on Tuesday, when they host the Nashville Predators to begin a three-game homestand. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Predators at 7 p.m.

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