Senators, Sabres playing out the string
The Sabres (25-42-12) have lost eight of their last 11 games as they prepare to finish their first season under head coach Phil Housley. Buffalo is coming off a 5-2 loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday and also had a 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last Thursday.
The Sabres have had a few positive moments sprinkled in between their struggles, particularly in the second half of the season — which included a stunning surprise 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
In that game, top playmaker Jack Eichel had a career-best five assists in the victory, tying a franchise record. Eichel became the fourth Buffalo player to record five assists in a single game.
The loss to the Maple Leafs, however, was a stark reminder of just how far the Sabres have to go in order to turn things around in the future.
“That’s a good team over there, they brought it,” goalie Chad Johnson said after the loss, according to the team’s website. “Their skilled players or their best players were their best players. At the end of the day you wish you could personally, as a team, beat all these top teams all the time and have great numbers, great statistics. It’s tough beating these guys when they’re at their best. There’s a reason why they have as many points as they do. We’re still finding that consistency in our game.”
Eichel leads the Sabres in scoring with 62 points (25 goals, 37 assists) in 64 games. Ryan O’Reilly is second on the team with 58 points (22 goals, 36 assists) in 58 games. Young forward Sam Reinhart has turned the corner in the second half of the season, posting 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) in 79 games.
One highlight for Sabres fans will be a Dominik Hasek bobblehead giveaway as part of the team’s fan appreciation night. Every fan who attends the game will receive one bobblehead.
The Senators (27-41-11) are also limping to the finish line in what has been a remarkably frustrating and surprising season. Ottawa has lost eight of its last night games, with the lone win coming in overtime against the Florida Panthers last Thursday. Ottawa’s most recent defeat came in a 6-5 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
“We showed some character coming back,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said, according to the team’s website. “But we made too many mistakes defensively to allow us to win.”
With his future unclear, Senators captain Erik Karlsson did not make the trip with the team to Buffalo. It remains to be seen if Karlsson has played his last game for the Senators. Karlsson picked up the final puck in the loss to Winnipeg before leaving the ice.
Karlsson is under contract through one more season but has been surrounded by trade rumors all season long.