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On trade deadline day, the Sabres look for answers to losing skid

The list of things going wrong for the Buffalo Sabres keeps growing.

They’re giving up tons of shots.

In 63 games, opponents have outshot the Sabres 42 times. Buffalo has had the shot advantage in just 18 games with three games featuring equal shots on goal.

They can’t hold on to leads.

In Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators the Sabres twice had two-goal leads, including in the third period, but failed to hold on. It was the second straight game they blew a two-goal third-period lead after collapsing in Arizona for a 3-2 loss on Sunday.

And speaking of the Coyotes, who come to Buffalo Thursday night, they’re the second-worst team in the National Hockey League, highlighting another problem facing the Sabres – their inability to win against teams below them in the standings.

The Sabres are a combined 4-9-3 against teams with fewer points and that’s inflated by their 2-0-1 mark against Detroit.

There weren’t a whole lot of new answers Wednesday as the Sabres held about an hour-long practice in KeyBank Center as the clock ticked on the NHL trade deadline.

“It’s a funny thing when you’re really close to being a good team and I think we are,” Sabres forward Kyle Okposo said. “I’ve talked about it quite a bit this year – I feel like we need to learn how to win. We’re just finding ways to lose critical games and it’s not one specific thing, it’s a bunch of different things and we have to figure out how to stay mentally sharp and doing the right the things for the entire game.”

The mental aspect is what veteran defenseman Josh Gorges feels is the key component needed for the Sabres to right their ship with 19 games remaining in the season.

While the team’s roster was up in the air pending any trades on Wednesday, nothing had drastically changed from when they went on a three-game winning streak from Feb. 14-18 and followed it up by losing their last four, including two against the bottom two teams in the NHL.

“You get in these situations and the biggest thing is the mental battle,” Gorges said. “Has the team changed from when we won three games in a row to losing four games in a row? It’s the same team. Our systems haven’t changed. It’s how we see the game, how we think the game, how we feel the game.

“You get in situations where you start to feel a little tense. You’ve got to go out there and find that line of confidence and urgency. We’re going to get in situations where we have leads. We’re going to have situations where we’re going to have to be from behind. Our mindset has to stay the same. That desperation to win pucks, move pucks, win puck battles, execute properly, communicate – all the little fine details of the game is a mindset. You just have to make sure you come with the right mindset. And I know it’s cliché but as we’ve seen it has to start right at the puck drop through to the last buzzer. You have lapses; you have let downs. Five minutes. Ten minutes. That could be the difference in the game.”

While General Manager Tim Murray was surely on the phone looking at deals that ended up not being there, coach Dan Bylsma was running practice in KeyBank Center  and preparing for the next day’s game against the Coyotes.

“Our actions today were about guys on this team going forward,” Bylsma said.

And going forward, the coach wants to mix up the lines in an attempt to shake the team out of its four-game skid.

Jack Eichel centered a line with Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta.

Evander Kane was moved to the wing of Zemgus Girgensons with Sam Reinhart on the other side.

Evan Rodrigues centered Tyler Ennis and Justin Bailey while Matt Moulson skated on the wing with Ryan O’Reilly and Okposo.

“It hasn’t worked. It hasn’t been very good frankly,” Bylsma said when asked about changing the lines. “You have minuses and goals against. I think I’d be silly to stay with the status quo and hope for a different change.”

 

 

 

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