NEWARK, N.J. – Zemgus Girgensons is the Buffalo Sabres' hottest scorer. All it took was a move to Jack Eichel's wing.
The Sabres might need to play Eichel on every line.
An inability to score continues to frustrate Buffalo. The Sabres played one of their more complete games of the season Wednesday against the New York Islanders, and their average goal output actually went down. They rank last in the NHL at 2.16 goals per game heading into Friday's visit to New Jersey, a dip from the 2.17 prior to facing New York.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Girgensons said. "It just comes down to burying them."
The Sabres simply lack sniping ability. They have scored on 80 of their 1,145 shots, good for just 7.0 percent. Since 1997-98, only one team has been worse.
The 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes scored on 6.9 percent of their shots. This edition of the Sabres is tied for second-worst with the 2013-14 Sabres and the 2012-13 Ottawa Senators.
Failing to finish killed the Sabres in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders. Jordan Nolan had a breakaway. Evander Kane had a partial one, then earned a point-blank chance. Sam Reinhart had a great opportunity late.
In fact, 17 of the Sabres' 18 skaters took a shot against the Islanders (only Jason Pominville was blanked). Yet the only players to score were Girgensons and Kyle Okposo, and their average distance from the net was 6 feet.
"It's frustrating," Nolan said Thursday after practice in Prudential Center. "If we keep playing that way and keep getting chances, they're bound to go in sooner or later. We took a good step last night and played the right way. We just can't give up those late-period goals because you're not going to win a lot of hockey games playing like that."
The goal-scoring slump remains a team-wide problem:
* Johan Larsson has no goals and four assists in 31 games.
* Pominville has two goals and two assists in 25 games.
* Benoit Pouliot has two goals and one assist in 19 games.
* Reinhart has no goals and one assist in 15 games.
* Rasmus Ristolainen has no goals and two assists in 14 games.
* Nolan has no points in 12 games.
"It's been tough," said Larsson, who has scored once in 37 games. "Lately, I've been having chances, but it won't go in for me. I just need a little bounce, and then maybe it'll start going more and more."
Excluding Buffalo's no-goal brigade – which includes every defenseman not named Jake McCabe (two) or Nathan Beaulieu (one) – Larsson is last with a 2.6 shooting percentage. He had two shots of the team's 37 shots against the Islanders.
"We had some good chances but couldn't capitalize," Larsson said. "We have to do that."
Girgensons is finally connecting. He went 25 games without a goal, then broke the slump Saturday in Carolina with an assist from Eichel. The center set up Girgensons again Wednesday, reaching 20 assists for the season.
"It's pretty easy to play with a guy like that," Girgensons said. "He can make anything happen out there, so it's fun to play with him.
"It was a long time coming for the first one, and it was definitely nice to get that second one right away."
Too many Sabres are in need of a streak of their own.
"You're kind of just thinking to yourself, 'I've got to bear down on this next one,'" said Nolan, who remains confident because chances are coming. "When you play a simple, defensive game and you're always in the right spot, you're bound to get plays against those skill teams because they might try the extra pass that maybe they shouldn't. That's when you break teams down.
"That's what teams were doing to us early in the season, and we're starting to do that to other teams now."