NHL: Coyotes look for better start vs. energized Sabres

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The Buffalo Sabres didn’t have much to cheer about last season, finishing with the fewest points in the NHL, but they have some positive thoughts heading into Saturday afternoon’s game against the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

The Sabres smashed the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in Thursday’s season opener, converting three of their six power-play opportunities along the way.

“It’s not what you don’t have, it’s what you do have, and that starts with our leadership,” Sabres goalie Craig Anderson said after making 30 saves against Montreal.

The Sabres will continue to play without star forward Jack Eichel, who is on injured reserve with a herniated disk in his back. Eichel also remains in a dispute with the team over the handling of his injury.

The Sabres didn’t have trouble finding offense in the opener, however.

Zemgus Girgensons and Victor Olofsson each had a goal and an assist, and Jacob Bryson, Colin Miller and Jeff Skinner each produced two assists.

Kyle Okposo, who scored the first goal for Buffalo on Thursday night, said having fans back in the arena was a huge boost for the Sabres.

“You could see the emotion on the bench, on the ice, in the crowd, everywhere (Thursday),” Okposo said. “It was a full-building effort tonight from us and we definitely drew off the fans, drew some energy from them, and it was great to have them back in the building. It makes a huge difference.

“I thought we rolled (Thursday). I thought special teams were really good. A little bit out of rhythm of the game there in the second, or first and second, but 5-on-5 I thought we played a full team game.”

The Coyotes will look to bounce back after opening their season with an 8-2 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Arizona gave up a goal 40 seconds into the game and trailed 3-0 before getting its first goal from Anton Stralman at 1:03 of the second period.

“It gave us a little bit of a momentum (boost) for a little bit, but unfortunately we threw it away,” Stralman said. “We definitely know what we did wrong. It’s nothing that’s unfixable.”

The loss spoiled the coaching debut of Andre Tourigny, who was hired on July 1 to replace Rick Tocchet, who went 125-131-34 in four seasons with the Coyotes.

Tourigny said the score was not indicative of the Coyotes’ overall performance.

“We had breakdowns defensively, yes,” he said. “At some point, we got emotional and got off our game, but if you look at the way we played it’s a better thing than the score showed.”

Arizona forward Clayton Keller, who scored the other for the Coyotes against Columbus, said he’s not concerned about Thursday’s game carrying over to Saturday.

“We’ve got 81 more games to go, so onto the next one,” he said. “You learn from it. It’s a long season and move on from it.”

–Field Level Media

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