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Sabres Notebook: Beaulieu takes seat; no help for Ullmark

With the Montreal Canadiens in town, Nathan Beaulieu joined old teammates for dinner Thursday.

He chewed on a healthy scratch Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres defenseman watched his two NHL teams face each other in KeyBank Center. A minor upper-body ailment kept Beaulieu away from an optional morning skate, but coach Phil Housley made it clear that was not why Beaulieu was off the ice against the Habs.

"He's a little sore, but he was not playing in this game," Housley said.

Missing the chance to face his old team was another low in a rough season for Beaulieu. Acquired from the Habs to provide offense, the defenseman has one goal and nine points in 54 games. He's also minus-20 and has been prone to defensive lapses and turnovers.

"Beau had a tough start to the season," Housley said. "I think that affected his confidence. He had a great opportunity coming to a new team, and things just didn't work out for him.

"His last 20 games have been pretty solid. I think he's been better in his own end. I think he's trying to add to the offense, but again, there's a couple critical times and errors in the games that affected our team, and we're just giving some other guys an opportunity."

Victor Antipin and Josh Gorges returned to the lineup in place of Beaulieu and Justin Falk. Being scratched for the second time in seven games was not how Beaulieu envisioned his first year in Buffalo.

"I'm just trying to find my game," the 25-year-old said. "I obviously had a tough start with two injuries right off the bat. Lately, offensively I've been a lot better.

"Basically like the team has gone, it's been an up-and-down year for me. It's been difficult. The only thing I can do is finish strong."

The Wraparound: Canadiens 3, Sabres 0

Beaulieu missed seven games in October and November with what is believed to be a concussion. He missed five games in December after being decimated by the flu. It helped prohibit a positive first impression.

Beaulieu was scheduled to be a key part of a vastly improved defensive unit. It never worked out. The blue-liners have struggled, partly due to injuries to Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe.

"Bogo didn't even really get a chance to get his feet wet," Beaulieu said of the blue-liner who played just 18 games in December and January. "It was difficult for him, and Caber was playing extremely good for us when he went down. It's unfortunate."

Injuries aside, Beaulieu and the Sabres have failed to put up numbers. The team is last in scoring, and the defenseman will finish well below last year's output of four goals and 28 points.

"For me, it's just details in his game," Housley said. "Every day, how he prepares, how he comes to practice, practice habits, and I think that will translate into the games. His last 20 games, the body of work, he's going in a great direction. I think he's added to the rush. He's trying to create offense.

"Just his defensive reads and his defensive awareness, I think he's just got to get stronger in those areas."

Beaulieu will have eight games to get stronger, provided he gets back in the lineup.

"I talk to Phil a lot," Beaulieu said. "Every day matters. Practices are huge, especially this time of year just to end on a positive note and go into the summer with a clear head."

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Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark has made two starts since being recalled from Rochester. He's still waiting for someone on his team to score.

After watching from the crease as the Sabres got blanked, 4-0, by Nashville, Ullmark took the loss in Friday's 3-0 setback. He stopped 21 of 22 shots as Montreal added two empty-net goals.

The netminder says he's not frustrated by the lack of offense.

"It doesn't change what I'm going to do out there," Ullmark said. "My job is to stop pucks and stop pucks only. I'm going to try to do it for 60 or 65 (minutes), plus penalty shots. I'm going to try to keep doing that as long as it needs me to win the game."

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The Sabres will complete their 15th of 16 sets of back-to-backs Saturday when they visit the New York Rangers. Buffalo is 5-7-2 in the second game.

The Rangers have won 12 of the last 15 games in the series, including the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. It's been close lately. Five of the last six have been decided by one goal, and two of the last three were decided in overtime.

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