Blues host Sabres in a matchup of struggling teams
ST. LOUIS — Coach Ken Hitchcock hopes the combination of a lopsided loss, a day off and a good practice Monday will result in a better performance when the St. Louis Blues host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
"There’s building times and this is it," Hitchcock told NHL.com. "We’ve got a real opportunity right now."
The Blues have lost three games in a row and five of their last seven, including a 3-1 defeat at Nashville and an embarrassing 8-4 loss at Columbus on Saturday night, a game in which they trailed 7-1 at one point.
Three of those recent losses came in games in which the Blues allowed five or more goals.
"There’s spots in games where we’re doing everything we want to do, then all of the sudden, things turn the other way and it’s going negative," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "It’s got to come from within this room. Nobody’s going to help us. Everything’s getting magnified. We’re not being as assertive as we usually are. You identify a check, you know that’s you’re guy and you’re going to play him hard. If someone makes a mistake, you’re there to help your teammate out right away.
"We’re getting spread out in our end, we’re not communicating the way we need to communicate, and that’s resulting in glaring opportunities, whereas in the past, if those were there, it didn’t seem like they were obvious opportunities. I think when we get more assertive and play teams harder, be tougher to play against, it’s going to work in a positive direction."
Jake Allen, who was pulled in the second period against the Blue Jackets after allowing four goals, will get the start in net against Buffalo.
As a team, the Sabres can relate to what the Blues are going through. They are winless in their last four games, including both a shootout and an overtime loss. They have scored a combined four goals in those games.
Just like the Blues, the Sabres have had a problem staying out of the penalty box. They have been called for five or more penalties in four of their last five games. The Blues have been called for the most minor penalties in the league (76) while Buffalo ranks 11th with 58.
"We’ve got to stay out of the box," Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo told NHL.com. "That’s something that needs to be addressed and needs to be executed. There are some penalties that you have to take and other ones that are just undisciplined penalties. We’ve got to stay away from the undisciplined ones."
Center Ryan O’Reilly, who has missed two of the last three games, could play against the Blues, according to coach Dan Bylsma. Buffalo still is expected to recall at least one forward and a defenseman from the minor leagues before Tuesday night’s game.
The Sabres have fallen to last in the NHL with an average of 1.93 goals per game.
"Maybe the biggest surprise is we haven’t got to the power play as much as we need to to get opportunities to score," Bylsma told the Buffalo News. "We should be playing the way where teams have to take penalties against us. Given the lineup we have, we need to manufacture goals in a hard and difficult way."