RALEIGH, N.C. -- The second half of the season opened for the Buffalo Sabres Friday night in PNC Arena. The Sabres took a 16-16-9 record into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes, good for 41 points in 41 games.
Last year, the Sabres were just 15-22-4 for 34 points at the halfway mark but improved in the second half by going 20-14-7 to finish with 81 points. Prior to Friday's game, coach Dan Bylsma said he's hoping this team can put on a similar push.
"We just need to learn to get consistency in our game, in how we play and our emotions," Bylsma said. "We've ridden some highs of winning games and the lows of disappointment not winning key games. We feel that (potential for a second-half push). We feel that coming from the last 17 games or so. That's what we have to keep focusing on: Getting consistency in our game. Keep driving. Keep racking up points, getting wins and doing it at a playoff-type pace."
Three players entered the game sharing the team scoring lead at 27 points. Rasmus Ristolainen (3-24), Sam Reinhart (9-18) and Kyle Okposo (12-15) all reached that number. Okposo had the team lead in goals, one ahead of Evander Kane.
Here's a by-the-numbers look at Buffalo's first half:
Home: 9-8-3. Road: 7-8-6
Vs. East: 9-13-7. Vs. West: 7-3-2
Vs. Atlantic: 4-8-3. Vs. Metropolitan: 5-5-4
Vs. Central: 3-2-1. Vs. Pacific: 4-1-1
By month: October 3-3-2, November 5-6-3, December 5-6-3, January 3-1-1.
Power play: 21.6 percent (10th in league)
Penalty kill: 73.4 percent (30th in league)
One-goal games: 9-3-9.
Games decided by two or more goals: 7-13
Leading/Trailing after one period: 8-1-3/3-10-2
Leading/Trailing after two periods: 10-0-4/4-14-2.
Overtime: 2-4. Shootouts: 1-5.
Record in 10-game segments: 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 5-3-2, 4-4-2. Thursday's loss to Tampa in game 41 opened the season's fifth 10-game set.
The Hurricanes entered the game last in the NHL in attendance, averaging just 11,449 tickets sold per game. In-house counts have often been quite a bit lower than that. Next on the list are the New York Islanders, whose average in Barclays Center is 12,819. Arizona (12,954) is the only other club that entered Friday even under 14,000.
"Last time here we had our own fair share of fans here in the building," Bylsma said, recalling Buffalo's shootout loss on Dec. 17. "And it was a little bit of a back and forth between the fans when we came back to tie it late in the game and played overtime."
---The Sabres had no extras on hand for the two-game road trip. Robin Lehner (flu), Josh Gorges (hip), Tyler Ennis (hernia) and Dmitry Kulikov (back) all stayed home.
---Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian played in his 500th career game Friday, the last 107 coming with the Sabres after he was acquired in the blockbuster trade with Winnipeg in Feb., 2015. His blueline partner, Cody Franson, played in his 498th game.
---Carolina goaltender Cam Ward played his 600th regular-season game, all with the Canes. He entered Friday with 285 wins, 15 shy of becoming the 32nd player in NHL history to win 300.