Last season, the Buffalo Sabres won only 16 of their final 57 games and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
Based on recent results, the Sabres may be enduring another collapse that could keep them out of the postseason again, and they hope to start trending in the right direction Friday night when they visit the New York Rangers.
The Sabres flew out of the gate by starting 9-2-1, but since then they are 14-21-7. Buffalo appeared to turn things around by outscoring opponents 13-4 in a three-game winning streak Jan. 12-16. Since then, however, the Sabres are 1-4-1 in its last six contests and have gone from being five points out of the final wild card to entering Friday 11 points out.
The latest rough patch continued Thursday when the Sabres took a 4-3 shootout loss on home ice to the league-worst Detroit Red Wings. Buffalo salvaged a point when Evan Rodrigues scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds left in regulation, but his goal occurred after the Sabres trailed 3-0, and they were booed off the ice following each of the first two periods.
“It’s the failed opportunities and the grit that we need to finish on those opportunities is definitely the reason for the loss today,” Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger said. “It was a good reaction in the third, coming back from two down. It was a good reaction to score 6-on-5 to bring it into overtime under the circumstances. But we shouldn’t have been in those circumstances.”
“We waited too long to turn it on,” Rodrigues said. “We weren’t ready. We had our moments, but we have to be more consistent. It seems like we’re in a bit of a funk here. It’s not where we want to be, simple as that.”
The Rangers are two points ahead of Buffalo, which they beat 6-2 at home on Oct. 24. New York enters Friday with seven wins in their last 11 games since losing three straight Dec. 31-Jan. 4 in Western Canada.
New York also is incorporating rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin into the mix. Shesterkin is 4-1 since making his debut Jan. 7 against Colorado and made 27 saves in Wednesday’s 5-3 home win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This guy has been a very good goalie — a great goalie at every level,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “He’s not a 20-year-old guy out of college or junior hockey. He’s proven to be a great pro over in the American League, and he’s just been a great pro for us.”
While Shesterkin is starting off his Rangers career, Chris Kreider’s tenure with the team could be coming to an end by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Kreider is a free agent after the season, but on Wednesday he returned after missing one game recovering from a knee to the head and had a goal and an assist.
“Anytime you lose a player, like Kreids, you’re going to notice it,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. “And you’re going to notice when he comes back.”
Both Kreider and Zibanejad enter on hot streaks. Zibanejad has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) over his last 14 games while Kreider has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his last 11 contests.
Including the first meeting, the Rangers are 7-1 in the past eight games against Buffalo.
–Field Level Media