DALLAS – It's rare to get a two-on-zero breakaway. Rarer still is for it to happen while a team is short-handed.
The Sabres want opposing power plays to know it can happen to them – especially when Phil Housley throws his most gifted offensive players onto the ice.
While the Buffalo coach typically employs defensive-minded forwards on his short-handed unit, he finds spots to put Evander Kane and Jack Eichel in the mix. It's paying off.
Kane scored his NHL-best third short-handed goal of the season during Thursday's 5-4 win in Arizona. The Sabres had just three short-handed goals as a team last year.
Eichel earned his second short-handed assist, which is tied for the league lead with New Jersey's Adam Henrique and Florida's Derek MacKenzie.
"They're very deadly," Housley said of his playmakers. "They do a terrific job. The other team has to be aware of that because if they get an opportunity they don't need many. They've been converting on them."
The latest goal was an easy one. Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers wiped out at the blue line, and Kane and Eichel took off on a two-on-zero. Goaltender Antti Raanta never had a chance as Kane fed Eichel, who gave the puck back to Kane.
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The goal came during the only short-handed shift of the night for Kane and Eichel. Housley uses them sparingly. The duo is tied for 14th on the team in short-handed ice time at 52 seconds per game, but they make the most of it.
While Kane has killed penalties in the past – he averaged 1:18 per game last season – this is Eichel's first extended opportunity. With the early success, it will certainly continue.
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As the NFL protests about racial inequality devolved into debates about patriotism, a gap formed between some fans, athletes and teams. Perhaps sensing that, the Sabres are stepping up their military appreciation efforts.
The Sabres' Military Appreciation Game next Friday in KeyBank Center will feature everything from free suites to meet and greets to Air Force vehicles to dog tags.
The Sabres are offering $25 tickets in the 300 Level to all active, reserve, National Guard and retired military personnel. The tickets can be ordered at Sabres.com/military.
The first 15,000 fans for the game against Florida will receive a Sabres-themed military dog tag. Those arriving early will see the Sabres take pregame warmups in camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off in a benefit for the Sabres' foundation.
Buffalo alternate captains Ryan O’Reilly and Zach Bogosian are donating a suite to members of the Coast Guard, and those members will be invited to the dressing room for a meet and greet with players following the game. The Sabres are also donating more than 200 tickets and an additional five suites to military organizations. Sabres players will meet with children of military families after their morning skate.
Military members will also receive a 25 percent discount at the Sabres Store the day of the game.
Before the game, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will display military vehicles in Alumni Plaza. The Blue Aces Air Force band will perform in the 100 Level pavilion, and lead singer Christina Bagley will perform the anthems.
The Sabres are making their military efforts more than a one-day event. The players will visit the Coast Guard Station on Fuhrmann Boulevard after practice Wednesday.
The Sabres' foundation is sponsoring a Sabres Military Appreciation trip to Washington on Monday. With help from Veterans One-Stop Center, the Sabres will take four veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to tour the D.C. monuments and Arlington National Cemetery. Alumni Danny Gare and Rene Robert will accompany the veterans.
The foundation will also be donating $7,500 to the Buffalo Blues Benefit for Veterans. It will be held Nov. 25 at the Cove on Transit Road in Depew. Sabres alumni will be in attendance for the benefit, which has a $10 cover with all proceeds going to the WNY Veterans Housing Coalition. More information can be found at BuffaloBlues.org.
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The Sabres built a 5-1 lead during their victory over Arizona. If it weren't for Robin Lehner, Buffalo could just as easily been in a 5-1 hole. The goaltender made a handful of highlight-reel saves, stopping breakaways and point-blank chances.
"There was a couple periods where it felt like every shot was Grade A," Lehner said. "It kept coming."
The Sabres need that to stop whether it's Lehner or Chad Johnson in net Saturday in Dallas. The Stars are 4-1 in American Airlines Center and have five straight home victories over Buffalo.
"We let guys get behind us, and it's just assignments," Housley said. "It's really basic, technical stuff that we can correct, but Robin came up big at those times with breakaways, big saves and save after save early in the first to keep it a 1-0 game. Hand it to him. He came to play."