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Sharpen Up: November 11, 2017

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

The Sabres acknowledged after last night's loss to the Florida Panthers that there are areas of their game in which they need to develop more consistency. Luckily, they won't have to wait long for a chance to right the ship.

After falling 4-1 at home on Friday, the Sabres are right back at it tonight as they conclude their back-to-back set against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. The game will serve as a rematch of opening night, when Montreal won 3-2 in a shootout, and a homecoming for former Canadien Nathan Beaulieu.

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550.

Here's what you need to know.

 

About last night

Video: BUF Recap: Okposo nets lone goal in 4-1 loss

Kyle Okposo scored his second goal of the season on the power play to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission, but they went on to allow four unanswered goals in their loss to Florida. 

The general consensus in the dressing room afterward was that, from the second period on, the Sabres deviated from the style of play that had made them successful in their win over Washington three nights earlier. 

Phil Housley summed it up when he spoke after the game:

Video: HOUSLEY Postgame Interview vs. FLA

"You play a good, solid first period and you're doing the right things, making the right decisions, and then the second period we made some poor choices," Housley said. "Turning pucks over and as a result they turn into penalties and more penalties, and then finally they scored a goal off it. 

"All the work that we did and the realization of how we had to play against Washington, you get away from it."

Housley said he was pleased with the way his defensemen weathered the offensive outburst brought on by the Panthers in the second period, but added that they eventually wore down after too many poor decisions in the neutral zone. Okposo, too, said it was the forwards who should shoulder most of the blame.

Video: OKPOSO: Postgame Interview vs. FLA 

"Our puck management in the second period was not good and not where it needs to be," Okposo said. "It's frustrating. We can't string two complete games together. We played pretty well in the first, and they just dumped it in and ran our D all night. We've got to be better as a group of forwards. It wasn't good enough to win."

The Panthers broke a 1-1 tie at the 3:50 mark of the third period when Ian McCoshen took a shot from the point that sailed over the pad of Robin Lehner. The goalie said he'd liked to have made the save, but added that the Sabres ultimately got the result they deserved.

Video: LEHNER: Postgame Interview vs. FLA

"I want to save every goal and I've got to look at it and see what I can do better," Lehner, who made 27 saves, said. "But again, we didn't deserve to win this game. Something's going to go in, and they usually bounce in the right team's favor."

 

Military Appreciation

Video: Veterans drop the puck

Last night was Military Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, and the Sabres honored servicemen and women throughout the game. Veterans Richard Costo, Melvin Quast and Bill Webb, all three of whom served in the Korean War, dropped the ceremonial first puck.

You can read more about Costo, Quast and Webb, as well as the organization's other efforts throughout the week, here. 

The team also honored Airman First Class Christopher Kovacs of the U.S. Air Force and his father, Paul, who is a veteran of the Air Force, during the signing of the national anthem. Dan Dunleavy spoke with Kovacs during the first intermission:

Video: Air Force Family Interview

The Sabres wore special camouflage jerseys during warmups, which are available now at Sabres.com/auction. All proceeds benefit the Buffalo Sabres foundation.

The one jersey you won't find is that of Lehner, who used his jersey as an opportunity to honor fallen Buffalo K-9 Officer Craig Lehner, who passed away during a training exercise last month. The goalie wore "C. Lehner" on his nameplate and the No. 43 on his back, a nod to Officer Lehner's radio call sign.

After the game, he presented the jersey to Officer Lehner's family.

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Robin Lehner honored Officer Craig Lehner, K-9 43 with his special warm-up jersey tonight �� pic.twitter.com/6u8uWf3wnY
 

 

Tonight's game

Nathan Beaulieu has admitted in the past that he has an extra chip on his shoulder when it comes to playing the Canadiens, the organization with which he had spent his entire career up until the Sabres acquired him via trade during the offseason.

Beaulieu made his return to the Sabres lineup last night following a seven-game absence due to an upper-body injury, meaning he'll make his return to Bell Centre for the first time as a member of the visiting team tonight. 

The status of another former Canadien defenseman, however, is less concrete. Josh Gorges was deemed ready to return from his own eight-game absence on Friday, but Housley kept him out of the lineup against Florida in order to keep some consistency stemming from their win over Washington. Housley did not rule Gorges out for tonight's game.

The Canadiens have some question marks of their own as well. Forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Shea Weber both returned from their respective injuries for an optional practice on Friday, and coach Claude Julien said their status would be reevaluated prior to the game.

The Canadiens are also without goalie Carey Price, out with a lower-body injury.

 

From the notes

Evander Kane and Ryan O'Reilly are both riding hot streaks for the Sabres. Kane has 16 points (9+7) in 16 games this season after assisting on Okposo's goal on Friday, while O'Reilly has 11 points (5+6) in his last 11 games.

A goal tonight from Kane would mark the fastest start to a season in his career, topping his mark of 10 goals in his first 22 games in 2011-12.

Kane and O'Reilly have also both enjoyed recent success against the Canadiens as well. O'Reilly has 14 points (4+10) in 16 career games against Montreal, while Kane has eight points (2+6) in his last eight games against the Canadiens. 

Jason Pominville, a Quebec native, has nine points (7+2) in his last eight games against Montreal.

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