Mired in an eight-game losing streak, the Buffalo Sabres will aim to stop the slide when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Each of the losses during their skid have come in regulation, including their most recent setback, 5-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. They’ve allowed at least three goals in each loss and at least four in seven of the past eight games. All but one loss has been by at least two goals.
“There’s always going to be ups and downs,” alternate captain Zemgus Girgensons said. “If you asked me at the 7-3 mark if this was going to happen, I probably would’ve answered no, but it is what it is. Right now, we have the game tomorrow that is important us.”
Buffalo has had good moments in some games during the streak only to be done in by youthful mistakes. General manager Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato expected those hiccups as they work to develop the young core.
Other times, the losses have stemmed from details of their game and in-game habits slipping.
“When it’s not really bouncing our way, you’ve got to work even harder,” defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said after the latest loss. “And it’s mentally frustrating, but that’s how it is right now. We’ve got to be mentally strong, and we’ve just got to dig in.”
One area that’s especially hurt the club is the penalty kill, which is 17-for-28 over the past nine games, a 60.7 percent success rate, and has allowed at least one goal in nine straight.
The Sabres will get some help on that front with the return of Mattias Samuelsson. The defenseman has missed 13 games with a lower-body injury sustained Oct. 22 at the Vancouver Canucks. On Monday, he skated with Dahlin.
“It’s a good sign, and I think in all likelihood we’ll see Mattias tomorrow,” Granato said.
The Sabres will also welcome back Girgensons, who missed the Maple Leafs game with an undisclosed injury sustained against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
The Canadiens enter the contest having won four of their past six games after dropping five of their previous seven.
The offense has come to life during the most recent stretch, scoring three or more goals in five out of the six games. Much of that has been sparked by the top line of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach.
The trio has been together for several weeks, combining for 31 points in their past eight games. Suzuki has led the way with 12 points (six goals, six assists) while Caufield has nine (four goals, five assists) and Dach has contributed 10 (three goals, seven assists).
“It’s confidence,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said. “But not confidence of the moment. You’re responsible for your confidence, and when there are key moments, you have to have confidence in your practice. The sequence at the end of the game against Philadelphia, I know it’s a key moment, but they do it all the time at practice. So, they’re not nervous.”
Montreal could be without forward Mike Hoffman, who sustained a lower-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Forward Joel Armia rejoined the team for practice Monday wearing a no-contact jersey but his status has yet to be determined. If neither is available, the Canadiens are expected to recall a forward from AHL affiliate Laval.
–Field Level Media