Slumping Sabres host Kings
The Buffalo Sabres have not won in five games.
So, after losing 6-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday on six unanswered goals — four in the third period — they decided it was time to talk things out.
The Sabres (17-9-4) had a team meeting Sunday, had a good practice Monday and hope they have sorted things out when they play the Los Angeles Kings (11-19-1) at the KeyBank Center Tuesday night.
The Kings, who have had their problems this season, lost 3-1 to the Red Wings at Detroit Monday night despite having a 43-21 advantage in shots on goal, 19-4 in the third period.
“We played a solid game offensively, I think defensively we gave up a little bit too much,” Kings center Adrian Kempe said. “But I think offensively we created a lot and we just have to capitalize on our chances. A lot of guys were frustrated because we played pretty well and created a lot but couldn’t score. That’s always the most frustrating thing. We’ve just got to keep building on that and give up less.”
After winning 10 in a row, the Buffalo is 0-3-2.
The Sabres felt that bad habits were creeping into their play, even during the winning streak. Another matter that was addressed at the meeting was the lack of effort against the Flyers.
“We’ve been pretty good at home this year and I think that that game might have been coming for a little bit,” Sabres right winger and alternate captain Kyle Okposo said. “That’s unacceptable. We’ve addressed it and we feel like we have a pretty good plan in place for how to deal with it and how we’re going to come out on Tuesday. We’ve just got to get back to being us and we’ve got to learn from that game for sure.”
During their five-game drought the Sabres have blown the lead four times.
Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton, who did not play Saturday because of an upper-body injury, has returned to practice and is expected to play this week, although his status for Tuesday had not been determined.
“We’re going to kind of see,” Hutton said. “The skate went well today and that’s all. Right now, we’re just going to go with that. We’ll see how tonight goes.”
Over the past five games 10 of the Sabres’ 12 goals have come from the top line of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Coach Phil Housley so far has let the players work through, slightly tinkering only with the bottom six forwards.
“Obviously, these guys want to contribute and be a bigger part and sometimes it doesn’t happen,” Housley said. “If we can continue to check and play away from the puck better, I think they’ll have opportunities with it. We got away from that last game.”
Housley did adjust the power play, which is 1-for-14 over the past six games, on Monday.
Rasmus Ristolainen and Rasmus Dahlin were used with Eichel, Skinner and Reinhart in man-advantage situations. Lawrence Pilut was inserted into the second power-play unit of Okposo, Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues with Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson alternating.
“Power play, that’s part of our secondary scoring too,” Housley said. “Obviously, we’ve struggled a little bit. I think we’ve got to simplify that. But putting some guys in some different spots, we’ve tried to get as many looks (as possible).”
The Kings have been dealing with injuries. Defenseman Alec Martinez did not make the trip to Detroit because of an upper-body injury sustained Saturday. The Kings’ injury list also includes forwards Ilya Kovalchuk (ankle), Carl Hagelin (knee), Kyle Clifford (head), Trevor Lewis (foot) and Jonny Brodzinski (shoulder) and goalie Jack Campbell (knee). The Kings had compiled 109 man-games lost to injury entering the game in Detroit.
The Kings recalled defenseman Sean Walker from the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League Monday and loaned forward Gabriel Vilardi to Team Canada. Vilardi is eligible to play in the upcoming 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Walker, 24 has played four games this season with the Kings. He did not play Monday.