Ryan O’Reilly had a rough night against Ryan Getzlaf. Not just the game. The whole night.
“It was tough sleeping last night knowing that I could have been a lot better and impacted the game,” the Sabres center said Friday.
O’Reilly doesn’t have to dwell on the outing anymore. There’s no time. He’ll line up against center Nazem Kadri and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, and he’ll probably get a good dose of Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin on Sunday.
If O’Reilly plays well, the Sabres have a shot at winning. If he doesn’t, the Leafs should have a fun night in Air Canada Centre.
O’Reilly has skated in 44 games this season. In the 18 wins, he has 10 goals, 23 points and a plus-13 rating. In the nine overtime losses, he has seven assists, eight points and a plus-1.
In the 17 losses, he has no goals, three assists and a minus-8.
The Sabres ask a lot of O’Reilly. He’s a big reason why they win, and he’s also a factor when they don’t. With Buffalo sitting at 22-22-10, it’s clearly been an inconsistent season.
“If we want to make the playoffs, I myself have to contribute every game for that,” O’Reilly said in KeyBank Center. “Last night I don’t think was good enough. It’s frustrating, but going forward I myself have to be a lot better.”
O’Reilly was minus-2 with an assist during Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Anaheim. He was far from the only one to have an off night, but his mistakes are magnified because he’s Buffalo’s No. 1 center and he’s making $11 million this season – the fifth-highest total in the NHL.
“I wasn’t reading the puck very well,” O’Reilly said. “I found at times plays were there and I just wasn’t making them quick enough. Sometimes it happens, but I’ve got to do other things well.
“Getzlaf and their line, they’re tough to play against. If you give them time with the puck, they’re going to make plays. I don’t think I defended quick enough. I’ve got to take away a lot of their time and make it tough on them. It wasn’t what I wanted.”
One of the things hurting the Sabres is lack of support. While O’Reilly looked bad on the Ducks’ opening goal – he slowly spun in a circle near no one – Corey Perry wouldn’t have had a clear path to the slot if Evander Kane had succeeded with his poke-check.
“We’ve got to make each other look good,” O’Reilly said. “Like myself, if I’m tracking the puck hard and making it easy for the D to have a good gap, it makes them look good, makes them feel good. That’s kind of the stuff we can build around.
“We’re way too inconsistent right now, and it’s getting out of our heads and trying to help each other out. We’ve got to go out there each shift and box out so the goalies can make the easy save. It’s all that stuff that’ll build confidence. If we can make each other look good, it’s going to help.”
Whenever O’Reilly is a step behind, his injuries become a question. He had a midsection/back ailment early in the year, and he missed four games after Christmas because of an appendectomy.
“I feel great. There’s no issue there,” O’Reilly said. “Certain guys have to step up in certain ways, and for myself being hurt coming back, I know what I have to do each game. I don’t think I’m restricted at all in anything.”
In the grand scheme, O’Reilly is nearly matching his first season in Buffalo. He had 21 goals, 39 assists and 60 points in 71 games last year. He’s on pace for 18 goals, 38 assists and 56 points in 72 games this season.
But expectations were higher for both him and the team, and neither has made a jump.
“I’ve got to be able to put the puck in the net, play more consistent, give life when it’s needed,” O’Reilly said. “The goal scoring, I think it’s a little more personal. For myself, it’s my own creativity. I’ve got to find it. It’s not through a system. It’s my own battles that I have to learn to create offense off of.
“My focus is on Toronto’s game and making an impact.”