Two years ago the Buffalo Sabres finished with the worst record in the NHL and were outscored by an astounding 113 goals. This was largely by design as the team was in the midst of a full rebuild and the 2015 entry draft boasted two top talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Sabres management knew if they wanted to secure a true franchise player they would need to finish at the bottom of the NHL standings.
That season the Sabres scored the fewest goals in the league and as bad as their offense was then, this year’s edition is so far even worse. During the 2014-15 campaign Buffalo averaged a meager 1.96 goals-per-game. This season the team is averaging just 1.86 goals-per-game. The team has struggled even more in the month of November, tallying just 19 goals in 13 games.
Even without Eichel, who has been out all season with an ankle injury, the Sabres were expected to mount a more prolific offensive attack. But as John Vogl of the Buffalo News writes, while the team is struggling to put the puck in the net, they are generating plenty of chances.
Ryan O’Reilly, who was acquired from Colorado in a blockbuster deal during the summer of 2015, has been counted on to lead the offense with Eichel on the shelf. He has nine points in 15 games on the campaign, but just one goal in his last 12, and he expects more from himself.
“It’s frustrating. It’s scoring goals again is the problem, and that’s my job. I’m not doing it right now.”
“We’ve got to shoot the puck better. It’s that simple. We’re moving it well. We’re supporting each other. We’re getting these good looks, but it’s beating the goalie. That’s all it is. It starts with myself. I’ve got to do that.”
Goaltender Anders Nilsson feels that the team is overdue for a little luck.
“We don’t get those dirty goals, and we don’t get those goals off the post and in or off a shin pad and in. We have to work really hard for every goal we score. Hopefully, we can turn that around and get the bounces with us.”
It does appear as if Eichel should be back in the lineup in relatively short order but even without their franchise center, the Sabres boast a talented group of forwards who are capable of putting the puck in the net. Kyle Okposo has topped the 20-goal mark three times in his career while Evander Kane has done so twice, including last season. Matt Moulson has three 30-goal campaigns on his resume and O’Reilly has tallied at least 50 points in four of the last five seasons. Once Eichel is back on the ice, the Sabres should be able to get their offense back on track.
- Like Buffalo, the Florida Panthers have been without one of their top players all season. Jonathan Huberdeau injured his Achilles during training camp and was expected to miss three to four months. According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, Huberdeau is progressing in his rehab but is still not expected back in action for a while. Panthers bench boss Gerard Gallant described the recovery time line as between four and six months, which indicates Huberdeau could be out for much of the regular season.
- The news is better for the other Florida team as Anton Stralman appears to be nearing a return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup. Bryan Burns, who covers the Lightning for NHL.com, tweeted that head coach Jon Cooper said the blue liner could see action on the team’s upcoming road trip. Stralman has been out the last two weeks with an upper-body-injury. Stralman has seven points in 15 games this season and is averaging better than 22 minutes per contest.
- A new arena for the Ottawa Senators appears to be one step closer to a reality, as Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen writes. The National Capital Commission (NCC) has given its formal approval for negotiations between the federal government and RendezVouz LeBreton to proceed. Garrioch adds that the Rogers Place Arena Ice District in Edmonton has provided the perfect model for what the Senators want to build in Ottawa. One NCC board member is impressed with how the Rogers project revitalized the downtown area in Edmonton and hopes a new arena will do the same in Canada’s capital.