Of all the players in the Sabres' dressing room who might want to flush away Tuesday's mashing in Montreal, defenseman Zach Bogosian has to be at the top of the list.
Bogosian was on the ice for all of the Habs' goals in their 5-2 beatdown of Buffalo and his minus-5 rating was the worst of his 507-game NHL career. Bogosian and defense partner Cody Franson were minus-8 in the game before coach Dan Bylsma mercifully broke them up in the third period. Bogosian played the rest of the way with Justin Falk and Franson went with Taylor Fedun.
The Sabres rotated defensemen at practice Wednesday so it's uncertain what the pairs will look like for Thursday's visit by the New York Rangers.
The Sabres don't list a record for the worst rating in a single game but there's certainly a chance Bogosian owns a piece of that mark now. The NHL record is minus-7, shared by Chicago's Doug Wilson in 1993 and equaled by former Sabre Chris Butler while playing for Calgary in 2012.
"It is what it is and I know that," Bogosian said. "You respect what happened because it wasn't good in any way but you have no choice but to throw it in the rear view and get ready for tomorrow night."
Bogosian and Franson had been a relatively strong pair for Buffalo in recent games. During the Sabres' three straight January overtime victories, Bogosian compiled a plus-4 rating and scored the winning goal in the Jan. 21 game in Montreal. But he's now minus-7 in his last two games to drop to a team-worst minus-13 for the season.
"That’s not who Zach is as a player," Bylsma said. "That’s not how he’s played for us over the past seven, eight, nine, 10 games for us."
Captain Max Pacioretty had a had trick in the game, the first by a Montreal player against the Sabres since Tomas Plekanec connected for three goals on Feb. 29, 2008.
"We don't have much time to dwell on it," Bogosian said. "We're right back at it tomorrow night. We play 82 games for a reason. We don't take what happened last night lightly. You have to come out the right way tomorrow night. It will be a good challenge for us."
The Sabres and Rangers come into Thursday's game off similar Tuesday meltdowns in their return from the All-Star break. The Rangers fell behind, 6-0, in Madison Square Garden before rallying in an eventual 6-4 loss to Columbus.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the fourth time this season − all at home − after giving up three goals on 14 shots. The 34-year-old has put up career-worsts in goals-against average (2.78) and save percentage (.905) but coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Wednesday that Lundqvist would get the start here Thursday.
Buffalo has won both meetings this year and three straight overall against the Rangers. And that comes on the heels of a nine-game losing streak to the Blueshirts, the longest one they had endured against them since entering the NHL in 1970.
The Rangers entered Wednesday's play second in the NHL in scoring at 3.38 goals per game but have managed just four in two games against the Sabres. Buffalo rallied for a 4-3 win here on Dec. 1 on two third-period goals by Jack Eichel and posted a dominant 4-1 victory Jan. 3 at MSG.
"We’ve done a good job of negating their long play and their speed on two accounts," Bylsma said. "Our forwards have been on top of their plays and with us putting pressure on their defenders to not be able make those long plays, not be able to flip pucks up the ice. We’ve had success and had opportunities because of that going the other way.
"We also have to realize they're a team like us. Coming back from the break, they got it handed it to them a little bit. ... A similar spot as us. Probably very disappointed the way they played and trying to have a bounceback game."
The most notable line move Bylsma made at practice was his demotion of winger Tyler Ennis to the fourth line with Cal O'Reilly and William Carrier. Matt Moulson took Ennis' spot with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo.
Ennis has one goal in six games since his return from hernia surgery, and that came 19 seconds into his return Jan. 16 against Dallas. Ennis has been minus-1 in each of the last three games. He played 16:05 Tuesday after being limited to just 9:43 in the previous game, the Jan. 26 loss at Dallas. Dogged by injuries, Ennis has just five goals in 41 games over the last two seasons.
"He’s got to take whatever minutes he gets and do a lot more with what he’s bringing," Bylsma said. "So regardless of whether he’s playing next to Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo or whether it’s power play, that’s his challenge."
Bylsma said defensemen Josh Gorges (hip) and Jake McCabe (shoulder) both skated on their own Wednesday. It was Gorges' third straight day on the ice and McCabe's first. Gorges is closer to returning to practice with the team. There is no real timetable for either to return to game action.
There were 98 goals in 13 NHL games played Tuesday, a robust average of seven per game that proponents of offense would certainly like to see more often. The Sabres' 5-2 loss in Montreal was right on that average.
According to ESPN's John Buccigross, that's the most goals in a single day since teams combined for 103 on Jan. 23, 1993. Nine teams scored at least five goals that night; the Sabres were 4-3 losers at Quebec.