NHL

Sabres-Canucks Preview

A bit of offensive punch recently brought some relief to the Buffalo Sabres, who can get back on track by delivering another blow to an already struggling club.

The Sabres will try to rebound from a streak-ending loss Monday night when they visit a Vancouver Canucks team that has lost five straight and 10 of its last 12.

Buffalo (11-13-3) had lost six in a row before erupting for 17 goals while earning three victories on a four-game point streak. The surge signaled a possible end to their downward spiral, but the Sabres were again lethargic in Sunday's 4-2 loss at Edmonton.

The offense reverted back to the form it showed in the first seven weeks, scoring two goals or less for the 15th time. Buffalo grabbed a quick lead on Jack Eichel's ninth of the season at the 6:58 mark of the first, but the Oilers followed with three unanswered goals to close the period.

"We didn't start the way we wanted to," said Ryan O'Reilly, who also got his ninth goal to extend his point streak to four games. "There was way too many turnovers. That was the reason we lost that one. We have to be better, especially on the road."

Edmonton used its speed and took advantage of careless passing by the Sabres, who scored on the power play but were sloppy overall with the man advantage while allowing several 2-on-1 breaks the other way.

Buffalo, which has lost six of its last seven visits to Vancouver, fell to 1-2-2 in its last five games away from home.

"We dug ourselves a hole and it was tough to climb out of," said O'Reilly.

Vancouver (9-11-8) knows the feeling and is in danger of losing six straight for the first time since dropping seven in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 8, 2014. The Canucks are 3-9-4 since Nov. 4 and sinking quickly into desperation mode.

Coach Willie Desjardins called Saturday's game a "must," but a 4-0 home loss to Boston moved to the front of a long line of flat performances.

"When you're playing without confidence and you're not skating, that's a real bad combination," Desjardins said. "You've got to play hard, you've got to play physical, you've got to battle.

"There's got to be something in you where you just hate to lose. I always say if you accept losing, you'll lose. You just will."

After Sunday's practice, Desjardins was asked what his biggest concern is while given a few options: lack of offense, defensive mistakes or physicality?

"That's quite a range," he responded.

Scoring might be at the top of the list. The Canucks have just three goals in four games and 10 in their last seven. Vancouver has had no more than 17 shots in its last three, getting outshot 96-49 in defeats against Los Angeles, Dallas and Boston.

Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson made 24 saves while taking the loss at Edmonton, but the Canucks could see Linus Ullmark in the second of the Sabres' back-to-back set. Ullmark is 0-3-2 in his last five starts with a 2.85 goals-against average.

Former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller will start on the opposite end looking to win for just the third time since Nov. 2. Miller, who spent 10 1/2 seasons in Buffalo, took the loss against his former team while making 19 saves earlier this season.

Comments

More NHL