Dan Bylsma has given some thought to breaking up Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Through five games, they’ve combined for two goals, both by Eichel. On a team in need of scoring, that won’t cut it.
But then Bylsma thinks back to the duo’s shifts. The Sabres’ coach remembers three shots by Kane that had no business staying out of the net. Add those to Eichel’s totals, and five goals in five games sounds pretty good.
With that in mind, the speedsters will remain together Wednesday night when Buffalo hosts Toronto in First Niagara Center.
“The opportunities have been there,” Bylsma said Tuesday. “I think they’d like to create more. I think Evander would like to create more, but they have had some golden opportunities that had they gone in, we’d be in a different spot with how they’ve done together.”
The Sabres swung the blockbuster trade for Kane in February hoping he’d help transform the NHL’s worst offense. The left winger has 15 shots, tied for third on the team. He has attempted 31, which ranks second behind Tyler Ennis’ 37, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
Kane is obviously getting the puck. He just needs it to go in.
“Obviously, we both want to be better,” Kane said of he and Eichel. “At the same time, I don’t think we’ve been that bad, either.
“As a team, we’re struggling scoring goals right now. We’re scoring one goal a game, and that’s not going to win you too many hockey games. We just need to find a way to score. We’ve been getting some chances, some clean looks that have kind of taken some bad bounces there, but eventually those go in.
“Once we get a couple going here, I think the floodgates will open. With the guys that we have in this room, it’s not going to last forever.”
The Sabres certainly hope it’s not an extended drought. The goal-scoring problem has dropped them to 1-4 and in last place in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs are one point ahead at 1-3-1.
“There’s a lot of hockey left to be played,” Kane said. “I think everyone has that sense of urgency, in a way, that we can’t wait forever. Even though it’s just five games in, we’ve kind of got to start with this week. It’s a big week for us. We play three games in four nights, so we’re going to have to be mentally and physically prepared and get our rest when we can.”
After welcoming Toronto to town, the Sabres host Montreal on Friday and New Jersey on Saturday. Those will actually be the third, fourth and fifth games for Kane this week. He was a spectator for the first two.
Kane watched the New York Mets host the Chicago Cubs on Sunday in Game Two of the National League Championship Series, then took in Game Three of the American League Championship Series on Monday. He sat in the front row in Toronto for the Blue Jays’ 11-8 win over Kansas City.
He also sat in a helicopter. He flew round-trip to Toronto with teammates Jamie McGinn and Carlo Colaiacovo, which is a lot more stylish than sitting in late-night traffic on the QEW.
“I look at it as a safety thing,” Kane said. “It prevents accidents. You’re not driving. You’re not tired. It’s a safe way to get to a game.
“It was a big game for the Blue Jays, it’s the playoffs, and I’m a sports fan. I like to go to all different sports. If I get an opportunity and it makes sense, why not?”
The timing worked out. The players were off Sunday, so Kane was in New York visiting his girlfriend. The Sabres held morning practices Monday and Tuesday, giving the players a free window in the evening.
“I knew some of the boys wanted to go, so I thought I would figure out some transportation and get there and enjoy the game,” Kane said. “I think we have a pretty close group in here. With all the new faces, I think guys have got to know each other pretty well in a short amount of time.”
Byslma likes what he’s gotten to know about Kane.
“He’s coachable,” Bylsma said. “He works at a high level. He’s a battler. He’s fit in with his teammates here. He’s desperately trying to find and have ways to win hockey games.”