Sabres get testy ahead of game against Blue Jackets (Jan 11, 2018)

BY AP • January 10, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Maybe a heated, confrontational practice is what it will take to snap the Buffalo Sabres out of their funk.

Coming off a 7-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, the Sabres held a physical practice that could have an effect in different ways moving forward.

Evander Kane and Justin Falk had a loud shouting match at one point, and defenseman Zach Bogosian was injured after a collision with Kane along the boards.

Buffalo (10-24-9) will look to snap its latest five-game losing streak on Thursday in a home game against Columbus.

"It's good to see some emotion," Sabres coach Phil Housley said, according to the team's website. "It was a battle practice out there, focusing on some areas that we need to improve on and tempers flared up. It was more about just being in the heat of the battle and guys being frustrated at where we are. Sometimes emotions get high."

Emotions aside, the Sabres must improve on defense if they wish to get back on the winning side. The defense was nowhere to be found in the blowout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday, when Buffalo fell behind 5-1 less than five minutes into the second period. Goalie Robin Lehner was pulled early in the period.

"Until we understand and take more pride in defending, it's tough to win," Sabres forward Jason Pominville said, according to the team's website. "There really isn't a big difference between some of the best teams and the lower teams. The teams that are at the top, they understand how to play and how to play the right way and how to defend.

"It starts with keeping the puck out of their net. We haven't done a good enough job at all with our five-on-five play."

The lone positive for the Sabres on Wednesday came when Jack Eichel was named to the NHL All-Star game. Eichel leads Buffalo in scoring with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists). It will be his first All-Star game.

The Blue Jackets (25-16-3) sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus has won three of its past four games after a 3-2 shootout win over Florida on Sunday and a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto on Monday.

Columbus won each of the two previous meetings with the Sabres, prevailing 5-1 on Oct. 25 and 3-2 on Nov. 20.

Columbus defenseman Seth Jones was named to the All-Star game on Tuesday.

"These are big games coming up here, so we need all the points we can get," Jones said, according to the team's website. "Buffalo's coming off a pretty bad loss, so we know they're going to come out hot and try to prove a point.

"When you lose like they did, you know they're going to come out with a vengeance and try to make something happen early. We have a back-to-back, but we're going to lay it on the table in these next games before the break."

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