Home is where the mediocrity is. Buffalo has a last chance to make it a positive place.
The Sabres will play their 38th and final home game of 2016 when Boston visits Thursday. The Sabres are 15-15-7 in KeyBank Center during the calendar year, so a victory will give them a .513 points percentage in 2016.
“We haven’t been doing great at home, and that’s definitely on us,” left wing Marcus Foligno said Wednesday. “It’s something we need to take pride in.”
The Sabres went 8-8-4 at home during the second half of the 2015-16 season. They are 7-7-3 this season, which ranks 26th in the NHL.
Buffalo has scored 35 goals in the 17 games, an average of 2.06. Only Colorado, with 34 goals in 17 games, is worse at home.
The lack of scoring and dearth of victories have turned the arena into a no-noise zone. The Sabres could change that with a solid start.
After allowing the first goal in seven straight games, Buffalo opened a 2-0 lead during Wednesday’s 4-3 victory in Detroit. The Sabres improved to 9-1-5 when scoring first. They are 4-12-3 when allowing the opening goal.
“It’s not only just getting the goal,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We scored eight minutes into that game with” Evander Kane’s “goal, but we had four really good shifts into the offensive zone, getting momentum for our team right from the drop of the puck.
“That’s the momentum we have to build into our game and build it right from the start, use our fans, use our building to gain momentum.”
Sabres defenseman Cody Franson, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury, practiced fully and could return to the lineup.
“I’m working back, and it’s feeling really good,” Franson said. “We’re kind of going day-by-day with it right now. I felt good out there, so I’m hopeful.”
Franson tweaked a muscle during the morning skate last Thursday. He took part in the pregame warmups but did not come out for the game against Carolina.
“It was just a muscle thing,” Franson said. “It’s been acting up. I had to take care of it, but it should be good to go.”
The Sabres practiced without three key pieces of the lineup – goaltender Robin Lehner and defensemen Jake McCabe and Dmitry Kulikov – but all are expected to be available against the Bruins. Bylsma said they rested for maintenance days, though Lehner visited the doctor for further evaluation of his neck.
The goaltender took a stick to the throat against the Red Wings, and the spear left a long red mark.
“We saw the abrasion,” Bylsma said. “He’s going to see the doctor more as a formality.”
Goaltending coach Andrew Allen served as the second netminder in place of Lehner.
Forward Tyler Ennis, who hasn’t played since Nov. 7 because of sports hernia surgery, could start practicing with the Sabres in the next 7-10 days.
“Tyler Ennis continues to skate on his own and progressing,” Bylsma said.
Anders Nilsson has a decorative mask again. Though it’s temporary, it looks the same as his old one.
A slap shot by Rasmus Ristolainen during practice last week cracked Nilsson’s mask, which was painted gold and blue with a portrait of his son and adorned with the rainbow pride flag. The goalie wore a plain white mask Friday against the New York Islanders.
During the Christmas break, equipment manager Dave Williams took the helmet to SkinFX Wraps in Rochester. The company copied the paint job from Nilsson’s original mask, applied it to a vinyl sticker, then taped it to the white mask.
Nilsson will use it while another is being painted.
“It’s almost a replica on there,” Nilsson said. “You can’t tell from a distance. You have to get real close, so he does a really good job. I’m thankful that he could do it during Christmas time.”
Inside the Sabres: With rainbow pride flag painted on his mask, Anders Nilsson makes friends, raises awareness. https://t.co/zBE8pF4VzO
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) December 3, 2016