Evander Kane has become a regular on the stat sheet. He has three goals in the last three games. He also has three penalties.
“The goals are good. The penalties are bad,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma deadpanned Thursday.
Despite the chuckle, Bylsma knows Kane’s infractions are a serious matter heading into Friday’s visit by Washington:
- The left winger took a hooking penalty during the third period of Monday’s game in Washington. The Capitals tied the game five seconds later.
- Kane took a cross-checking penalty during the third period of Tuesday’s game against Edmonton. The Oilers took the lead during the power play.
“The type of penalties are more the discussion point than the penalties,” Bylsma said in KeyBank Center. “Evander is an aggressive guy, a physical guy, and we want him to be and need him to be. If he’s taking penalties being aggressive and being physical, then that’s one we’ll kill.
“The penalties away from the puck, the cross-checking last game, those are not good situations to put yourself in, put your team in. That’s really been a big part of us giving other teams opportunities in the last few games, the Edmonton game in particular.
“Evander’s penalty was a rotten penalty to take at that point in time of the game for us.”
Unlike the 3-2 overtime loss to the Caps, Kane made amends against the Oilers. He scored his second goal of the night with 29 seconds left, tying the game and enabling Buffalo to earn a 4-3 overtime win.
“Refs make calls throughout the course of the game,” Kane said. “Whether your feel they’re right or they’re wrong or it’s they’ve been letting it go all game, you’ve got to find a way to respond.”
The penalties have taken away from an offensive surge by Kane. He has three goals and five points in five games after a start to forget. He entered the hot streak with no goals and two assists in his opening 10 games.
He’s not the only offensive talent in Friday’s matchup who has been taking too many trips to the box. Capitals coach Barry Trotz had a talk with Alex Ovechkin earlier this week after the sniper took five minors in three games.
“If it’s going on again, then there’s not going to be a lot of power play and playing time,” Trotz told Washington reporters. “If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time.”
Ovechkin is on a one-game streak of avoiding the box, steering clear of the referees during Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime win against Boston.
“Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box,” Ovechkin said in Washington. “It’s a good thing we talk. It’s my mistakes, and I just have to handle it and don’t take those penalties.”
The Sabres need to avoid infractions because the penalty-kill unit has been their Achilles’ heel. They rank second-last in the NHL at 75.6 percent. Buffalo has given up a power-play goal in eight of the past 11 games while going just 17 for 29 (58.6 percent).
Washington’s power play has scored in each of the teams’ two meetings. Both came during third periods. The Caps’ top unit features Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and John Carlson.
“They’ve got an elite group of guys out there, and they move the puck well,” Sabres center Derek Grant said. “If Ovechkin gets the puck, he’s going to be shooting. We’re trying to keep it out of his hands, but last game we still gave him too many good looks from the top.
“They’ve got four other guys on that unit that are pretty skilled, too. If you take one guy away too much, it gives those other guys more opportunity and more time. We’ve got to figure out a way to limit those guys’ time and space, and at the same time making sure we’re not giving him that opportunity to take that shot that he likes.”