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Sabres Notebook: Second thoughts; Carrier not skating

For two-thirds of the game, the Sabres’ bench is 60 feet away from their net. It is at least 110 feet away during the second period.

It may as well be a mile.

Buffalo continues to be abysmal during second periods. Pittsburgh outscored the Sabres, 2-0, during the middle period Sunday to add to the ugly numbers:

*Buffalo has allowed 71 goals in the second period, tied for the second-highest total in the NHL.

*Buffalo has scored 49 times in the second, the fourth-lowest number in the league.

That goal differential of minus-22 is nearly the entire reason Buffalo is minus-24 for the season heading into Tuesday’s visit by Philadelphia. The Sabres say the longer distance from their bench to the defensive zone is the primary culprit.

During the first and third periods, the teams’ benches are near their zone. When the sides swap nets for the second period, the bench is farther away. It makes it harder to change lines and defensemen.

“It’s a huge difference,” Sabres blue-liner Jake McCabe said Monday. “A lot of times if the puck even gets to maybe the red line or the far blue line, maybe one defenseman can sneak off. As for forwards, every once in a while you can sneak one or two off.”

The guys who get stuck on the ice have to face two or three waves of rested opposition.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to grind it out,” McCabe said. “Forwards have got to recognize when we’ve been out there for extended periods of times, and we’ve got to recognize ourselves when we’ve been out there for an extended period of time and keep the game that much more simple.”

The Sabres have failed to recognize the troubles.

“We join a rush, now we have to change on the way back,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s all the way down at that end of the rink, but it puts us in a tough position as a result.”

The longer changes affect every team. Entering Monday’s schedule, there had been 1,819 goals scored during second periods compared to 1,491 in the first and 1,583 in the third (excluding 224 empty-net goals).

The long change just affects the Sabres more, especially when their passing is inefficient. Second periods have become a disaster.

“I would say where we lost track was the second period, not the third,” defenseman Josh Gorges said of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh, which featured a 3-0 lead for Buffalo after one period. “We give the teams we’re playing against opportunity, and sometimes it just gives them life. It gives them a chance to breathe, and we can’t allow teams to breathe. When you get that position, you’ve got to step on their throats.

“They got one, and they started feeling good.”

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Buffalo defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is expected to miss his second straight game with a concussion. Left wing William Carrier will sit out for the 17th time with a bone bruise in his knee. He isn’t skating.

“The pain has to dissipate, and he’s got to have some healing on the bone,” Bylsma said. “We’ll pretend for a second that you’re a golfer, and you take a divot. Every time you move, you continue to take a swing at the same divot over and over and over and over again. That’s what happened for him, and now it has to heal.

“We’d like him to be able to move around and do something, but every time you do it’s on the same spot.”

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The Flyers are 2-0-1 in their last three games with goaltender Steve Mason putting up a .969 save percentage and 0.96 goals-against average. Philadelphia is two points ahead of Buffalo with two fewer games played.

Because it’s a nationally televised game on NBCSN, faceoff will be at 7:30 p.m.

"You take a look at the team as a whole, and we're starting to play better hockey," Mason told Philadelphia reporters. "We've gotten better results in the last three games, but we're still in a tough position with lots of work to be done."

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