PREVIEW: Ducks look to regain strength against surging Sabres (3:30p, FOX Sports West)
The Ducks had been rolling with 11 wins in 13 games before losing two away games in a row to the New York Rangers Tuesday and the Boston Bruins Thursday, both by 3-1 scores.
The Sabres, who gained momentums with a 10-game winning streak Nov. 8-27, were on 3-0-1 run before losing 5-2 to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night at home and then dropping a 2-1 decision on the road to the Washington Capitals Friday night.
The Ducks and the Sabres will be trying to shake off these recent glitches when they meet Saturday at the KeyBank Center. Buffalo won the first meeting between the teams, 4-2 at Anaheim Oct. 21.
The Ducks were listless Thursday in Boston.
“It just seemed we didn’t have the intensity we’ve shown over the stretch of games we’ve won,” Ducks left winger Andrew Cogliano said.
“There’s no excuse, really. We’re a couple of games away from the Christmas break and you have to find it. These are tough times and you’ve got to push through the whatever-you-want-to call-it and get the wins and then give yourself a break after that. There’s no excuse. I think we’ve let a couple of games go and it’s unfortunate because we’ve got something really good going.”
In New York, the Ducks also were lifeless. They led 1-0 before allowing three goals – including one when they were on the power play – in the third period in which they were outshot 14-1.
“We didn’t have much jump,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s what happens. You play a lot of hockey. You travel a lot. You come from the West Coast. You travel 51/2 hours. People don’t know how tough travel can be. You practice every day. Those are the things that add up over time. Everybody’s in the holiday season. There are Christmas gifts to purchase. There are other things that are on people’s minds. We just didn’t have the gasoline that was necessary in the tank.”
The Sabres were in Washington only last Saturday and lost that time, 4-3, in a shootout before defeating the Bruins 4-2 on Sunday.
The difference Friday was Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby as the Sabres had a 37-24 advantage in shots on goal. Tom Wilson notched what turned out to be the winning goal at 13:00 of the third period, taking advantage of a mistake by Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton.
Hutton, a Sabres mainstay all season, lost the puck behind the goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Capitals center passed it in front to Wilson, who put it into the gaping goal.
“The guy (Kuznetsov) got a hack in on me, I kind of fumbled it and they capitalized,” Hutton said.
“He just lost the handle and they pounced on it,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “For all the good things he’s done, they outweigh that play.”
The Sabres, meanwhile, have parted with Patrik Berglund, who had left the team. The center has cleared unconditional waivers. He had had two goals and two assists in 23 games with the Sabres, who acquired him in an offseason trade from the St. Louis Blues.
The situation does not seem to have been a distraction. “I think that we’ve tried to limit our focus to playing, and the guys that are here,” Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. “You let the right people take care of that situation. You kind of just focus on what you can control and the people that are here.”
“(Berglund) was an ultimate pro, does everything right, every day works hard so obviously it’s been a bit shocking,” said Hutton, who was Berglund’s teammate for two years with St. Louis. “There’s a lot of stuff where we don’t even know about, I’m sure, so you hope for the best in all cases.”