After an 0-4-2 slump entirely against Western Conference teams, the Buffalo Sabres took on a friendly foe and quickly got back in the win column Friday night.
Jack Eichel's snapshot with 7:36 left in the second period snapped a 1-1 tie and the Sabres went on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, before 18,052 in First Niagara Center.
The Sabres are 8-8 against the Eastern Conference this season but just 1-4-2 against the West. They also struggled to score in the six-game slide, collecting just seven goals. They hit three Friday for the first time since their Nov. 12 win at Florida.
Eichel Alert: The rookie's eighth goal of the season snapped a tie with Ryan O'Reilly for the team lead and puts him on a pace to finish with 29. No Buffalo rookie has scored more than 25 since Thomas Vanek hit that mark in the 2005-06 season. Eichel's shot from the right circle whizzed over the right shoulder of Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, just under the crossbar.
Scoresheet newbie: Defenseman Josh Gorges opened the scoring with a flutter from the left point that eluded Ward at 8:57 of the first period. It was his first goal in two years with the Sabres -- and his first in 130 games, dating to Oct. 12, 2013 with Montreal at Vancouver.
The Captain makes a stand: Brian Gionta had a rough night with several turnovers, and a grievious one in his own end directly led to Victor Rask's tying goal at 4:59 of the second period. But Gionta made up for that by tipping home Matt Moulson's pass with 23 seconds left in the middle period. It was Gionta's second goal of the season, and first in the last seven games.
Heating Up: David Legwand didn't score in his first 17 games played this season. Now he's tallied twice in the last three games. His goal off a Jamie McGinn feed at 6:36 of the third period put the Sabres on easy street with a three-goal lead.
Risto raking the points: Rasmus Ristolainen got an assist on Gorges' goal, tying O'Reilly for the team lead with 10. He has 14 points, second on the team, and points in seven of the last 10 games.
Puckhogs: The Hurricanes entered the game leading the league in Corsi rating, taking roughly 55 percent of all shot attempts in their games, and hemmed the Sabres in for large segments of the first 40 minutes. Shot attempts were 24-6 in the first period for Carolina, and 45-21 through two periods but the Sabres were better able to finish on their chances.
Century mark: It was the 100th win all-time for the Sabres against the Canes/Hartford Whalers. The Sabres lead the series, 100-69-24.
Nursing some hurts: Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian both sat out the morning skate but answered the bell and played in the game. Kane, who missed 10 games with a knee injury, tweeted a picture meeting fans after Wednesday's loss to Nashville while wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
Scratch City: Johan Larsson, who still has not scored while playing 21 of the first 22 games this season, was a healthy scratch while Tim Schaller got back in the lineup for the first time in the last five games. Coach Dan Bylsma was matter of fact about the decision to sit Larsson when asked after the morning skate.
"I've given him every opportunity to be a good player in situations to produce for our team. And with Jack Eichel," said Bylsma. "And it's not there right now. You can't depend on his play away from the puck to be a good player. Right now it's not there."
Down on the farm: Angola native Patrick Kaleta made his season debut for the Rochester Amerks in their game against St. John's in Blue Cross Arena. Kaleta, signed to an AHL deal in the offseason, has not played since suffering a lower-body injury early in training camp.
Coming Attractions: The Sabres hit the airport right after the game for the trip to Nashville, where they have a return engagement with the Predators on Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena. The trip continues Tuesday in Detroit as five of the next six games are on the road. The lone home game in that stretch is next Friday's visit by Arizona.