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Sabres Notebook: Fueled by special teams, offense keeps clicking

Just as they lose red-hot Jack Eichel from the lineup, the Buffalo Sabres' offense is finding its stride more than at any point all season.

The Sabres put together their third straight four-goal game in Sunday's 5-4 loss to Colorado, a first this season. Until late Monday night, they had even climbed out of their seasonlong spot as the NHL's lowest-scoring team.

With 132 goals in 56 games, the Sabres are averaging 2.36 per game. Arizona has 134 in 56 games after its 6-1 rout of Chicago Monday, inching past the Sabres again at 2.39. Buffalo is scoring three goals per game over the last nine, posting a 4-4-1 record.

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The Sabres have netted four goals in three straight games for the first time since March 29-April 2, 2016, and special teams continue to fuel their attack.

They scored a pair of short-handed goals Sunday, moving into a tie with Florida for the NHL lead with nine – the most by a Buffalo team since 2007-08. And the power play continues to hum along at a furious clip.

The Sabres have tallied at least once with the man advantage in 11 of the last 14 games in which they've had an opportunity. They're 14 for 45 in that stretch, and entered Monday's games leading the NHL in both goals and conversion rate (31.1 percent) over that period. They've moved from 31st in the league to 23rd, with their season rate now at 17 percent.

Ryan O'Reilly leads the league with six power-play goals since Jan. 7 while Eichel and Kyle Okposo are tied for second with nine power-play points, one back of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

In 5-on-5 play, however, the Sabres continue to struggle. They remain last in the league with just 77 goals in 56 games, a paltry average of 1.38 per game. By contrast, the Toronto Maple Leafs lead the league with 133 while Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders are tied for second at 130. All of goals were at even strength Monday as Toronto beat Tampa Bay, 4-3, in a showdown in Air Canada Centre.

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After driving in from Toronto, the Lightning will be on a back-to-back when they hit KeyBank Center to meet the Sabres on Tuesday night. Their will be accompanied by their fathers on the team's annual trip, which included a stop Monday at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Sabres have lost 12 of their last 13 games to Tampa Bay, going 1-11-1 in a stretch that dates to December 2014. They're 0-4-1 since the lone win, a 4-1 win in Amalie Arena on Nov. 10, 2015.

The Sabres are 0-5-1 in their last six home meetings with the Bolts, dating to a 2-1 shootout victory here on Dec. 2, 2014. The Lightning won this season's first meeting, 2-0, on Nov. 17.

Tampa Bay is first overall atop the NHL standings and has an NHL-best 199 goals on the season.

The Sabres have yet to play this season in Amalie, site of the NHL All-Star Game. They meet the Lightning there Feb. 28 and April 6.

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The Rochester Amerks have lost 10 of their last 12 games, going 2-5-5, and an alarming part of the slide has been the play of goaltender Linus Ullmark.

Ullmark, presumed to be the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender next season, made 44 saves to win his lone NHL game of the season Jan. 11 against Columbus. Since returning to the AHL, however, he's having a huge struggle.

Ullmark was 17-5-3 at the time of his promotion to Buffalo but has gone 0-4-4 in his last eight starts for the Amerks after Sunday's overtime loss in Hershey. He's given up 25 goals in those games, compiling a 3.08 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

The Amerks won their first four OT/shootout decisions this season. Since then, however, they've gone just 5-12 in extra time.

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