Sabres aim to build on positives vs. Senators

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Sabres were much better in a recent three-game road swing following their worst stretch of the season, although there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Buffalo will look to carry its momentum into a home game on Tuesday night against another team that has had trouble finding wins this season, the Ottawa Senators.

The Sabres (7-17-6) had lost 11 of 12 games heading into their recent road trip, with a stretch that ended with back-to-back losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a combined score of 9-1. But the Sabres went on the road and posted a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche before picking up points in back-to-back 3-2 overtime losses to Chicago and St. Louis.

Those performances have the Sabres feeling better — but not great — about their recent upswing.

“It was four big points out of six, even though we lost two overtimes,” Sabres goalie Robin Lehner said, according to the team’s website. “We’re trying to take it a step at a time in the right direction. We’ve just got to keep working.”

“It should have been a six out of six road trip,” center Jack Eichel said, per The Buffalo News. “Opportunity (Sunday) in overtime, good opportunity in Chicago. Two points we should have.”

Lehner was a big reason for Buffalo’s improved play. He stopped 35 of 37 shots in the win over Colorado and had two of his best efforts of the season in the overtime losses to Chicago (48 saves) and St. Louis (42 saves). In 23 games, Lehner has a save percentage of .910 on the season.

“He’s a battler,” Sabres head coach Phil Housley said about Lehner, according to the team’s website. “He competes really hard, especially on the second opportunities. But I think initially he’s just letting the puck hit him. He’s a big guy, he’s playing his angles really well and he’s tight. Sometimes his reaction to some of the shots that are coming off him, he’s just fighting and battling to get the puck. It’s great to see.”

The Senators (9-12-7) are right where the Sabres were a few games earlier. The Senators have lost 11 of their previous 12 games, with their lone win coming in a 6-5 victory over the New York Islanders on Dec. 1.

Ottawa is coming off a 5-0 loss to San Jose on Dec. 9 and has been shut out in three of its past four losses.

“Frustration would be a word right now in a sense that we can’t seem to find traction in our game and the way we want to play consistently,” said defenseman Dion Phaneuf, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

“We have spurts of it. It’s every guy. It’s not one thing or another. The bottom line is as a team we haven’t played well enough.”

“The last month has not been what we wanted,” Ottawa leading scorer Mark Stone said. “We might have to make a few changes to get ourselves back on track.”

Stone leads the Senators in scoring with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists).

Goaltender Craig Anderson has a save percentage of .895 in 22 games, while backup Mike Condon has a save percentage of .902 in 10 contests.