The Buffalo Sabres got good news this past weekend in that goaltender Ryan Miller seems to be returning to form.
But the team got bad news in that the rest of the squad has not.
Buffalo was lucky to split weekend games at the Islanders and at home against the Bruins thanks in large part to Miller, who made 41 saves Saturday and 36 Sunday to keep the blue and gold in both games. But the offense struggled, with two of Buffalo's three goals Saturday coming from defensemen and only one goal total being scored Sunday.
The end result is a last-place squad still searching for answers when it travels to Ottawa tonight (7:30 p.m., MSG). Buffalo (5-7-1) can move within a point of Ottawa (6-4-2) with a win tonight, but that won't be likely if the Sabres can't improve upon their 34.1 shots per game against.
"We're spending too much time in our own zone defensively. We have to tighten things up there," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We can't keep allowing 35-plus shots a game here. There's just too many chances against."
In Sunday's loss to Boston, giveaways led directly to several key Bruins scoring chances. And the Sabres stand even less of a chance if Miller isn't hot. Buffalo gave up at least four goals in six straight games prior to Saturday, four of which were losses in which the Sabres spent too much time trying to recover from defensive lapses.
"We’re giving up too much. We’re making it too easy on them," captain Jason Pominville said. "We’re running around a little bit, and it ends up wasting a lot of time in our zone, and then you get the puck out, you’ve got to change and they’re coming right back at you with fresh guys. So it’s about playing in our zone first and that’s how it starts. It’s defense first."
Defenseman Tyler Myers is expected to return from a two-game benching tonight. He will hopefully find his game again on both ends of the ice, as Buffalo could use the scoring touch he's shown at times. Buffalo only managed two goals all weekend from forwards, and the top line of Pominville, Cody Hodgson and NHL scoring leader Thomas Vanek was kept off the board Sunday.
"Yeah, you know, Thomas and (Pominville) and Cody have been carrying the load a lot, so we've talked about it quite a bit," said forward Tyler Ennis, who scored his fifth goal of the season Sunday for the Sabres' lone tally. "It seems like every day we're talking about secondary scoring needing to come through so, you know, it's got to come."
The Senators have been in an offensive funk of their own – excepting, of course, their 4-3 win over the Sabres last week. They were shut out Saturday against Winnipeg and have only seven goals in their last five games. But continued stellar netminding from Craig Anderson (6-2-2, 1.49 GAA) has kept the Senators alive in most every game thus far.
Kyle Turris leads Ottawa with 10 points. Erik Karlsson paces the Sens with five goals.Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL