One of the rare occasions over the last three-plus weeks that the Detroit Red Wings didn't have trouble scoring came against the Buffalo Sabres.
Usually the case when the teams meet, the Red Wings hope that production continues as they try to break out of their latest offensive funk Friday night in western New York.
Ranked in the bottom half of the league averaging 2.41 goals, Detroit (23-15-8) has totaled 20 during a 5-5-1 stretch. Fortunately for the Red Wings, they've yielded 11 non-shootout goals over the last seven contests.
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“You can't feel sorry for yourself,” said veteran forward Brad Richards, who has gone six games without a point. “It's hard to score in this league right now … you keep plugging and believe it will go our way and stay our way if we keep doing the right things.”
Coming off consecutive 2-1 losses to Philadelphia – in a shootout – and St. Louis, the Red Wings have scored more than two goals twice in the last 11, highlighted by a 4-3 win at Buffalo on Jan. 2.
“We don't have to make vast changes to the way we play,'' said first-year Detroit coach Jeff Blashill, who felt his team made strides by recording 30 shots for a second straight game after averaging 24.2 in the previous six.
“You have to take the emotion out of it – it is frustrating when you don't score, but our processes are fine.''
Despite a 2-1 home loss to the Sabres (19-24-4) on Dec. 14, Detroit has scored nine regulation goals while going 2-1-0 against them this season. In the midst of a 6-0-1 stretch at Buffalo, the Red Wings have averaged 3.6 goals while winning 28 times and earning at least one point in all but three of the last 34 meetings.
Tomas Tatar has seven goals and two assists in the last seven games against Buffalo, but it's uncertain if he'll be available after being scratched Wednesday because of the flu. Detroit also announced veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall, a key figure on its power play, could miss up to a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this week.
The Sabres fell 2-1 at Colorado on Wednesday, their second defeat in six games since losing a season-high six in a row. Also near the bottom of the league averaging 2.28 goals, Buffalo has scored 23 times in those 12 games but has converted 26.5 percent (9 of 34) of its power-play chances in the last 10.
Evander Kane scored with the man-advantage but the Avalanche rallied for two goals in the third period.
“We have to win those games,” Kane told the Sabres' official website. “Those are big points we just lost. That's unfortunate but now we have to look ahead and look forward to Detroit.”
Kane has two goals with three assists in the last six games. He scored twice in a 5-4 shootout loss at Detroit on Dec. 1, but hasn't recorded a point in the two meetings since.
Buffalo has allowed 12 goals during its 4-2-0 stretch and killed all 15 penalties in the last five contests.
Detroit's Petr Mrazek has made three straight starts, and owns a 1.15 goals-against average in his last six. He's posted a 2.96 GAA while starting all three against the Sabres this season.