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Sabres' Eichel is frustrated: 'I don't like my game right now'

The Sabres deservedly fell back into last place. Their star played poorly and knows he hasn't scored in seven games.

All is not well.

"Yeah, I'm frustrated," Jack Eichel said after Friday's 4-1 loss to Florida. "Yeah, I am. I don't like my game right now. I'm forcing things.

"I'm obviously not producing. I don't feel like I'm making an impact. It's tough. It's frustrating, you know?"

Oh, yeah. People know. People in Sabreland know almost nothing but frustration.

Buffalo backers again streamed out of KeyBank Center before the final buzzer, this one signifying a loss to the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Well, Florida was the worst team. After it improved to 5-8-2, last place belonged to the 5-9-2 Sabres.

Players have said the team is better than the record indicates, but that philosophy is gone after the loss to the Panthers.

"That's what the record says, that's what we are," forward Kyle Okposo said. "There's no bones about it. We are where we are for a reason. We've got to realize it and try and get better every day.

"It's been a lot of learning experiences this year, and I'm sick of learning experiences. It's not fun."

The fun has definitely departed Eichel's hockey world. He hasn't scored since Oct. 21 in Boston. The center has three assists during the seven-game slump.

The stat line was ugly Friday. He was minus-3 with two giveaways and three shots.

"I obviously didn't play well," Eichel said. "The best way to look at it is we've got another game."

The Sabres visit Montreal on Saturday night, though historically that doesn't mean a breakout game for Eichel. In nine meetings with the Canadiens, he has no goals, four assists and a minus-4 rating.

Overall in 16 games this year, he has four goals, 14 points and a minus-7. That's not the start he was looking for after signing an eight-year, $80 million contract extension that kicks in next season. He's felt pressure to perform his whole life, so that's not where the troubles start.

He's not sure where they start.

"I don't know what it is right now," Eichel said. "I'm trying to pinpoint it, but I've got to be better."

Coach Phil Housley sees a player who is doing too much on his own.

"He cares, and he's a tremendous competitor," Housley said. "But I think he's got to focus his energy in making the right decisions. I know he puts a tremendous burden on himself. I think he's got to simplify his game and take what really is given.

"If you're going one against two, the good decision is to get it in deep. He means so well that it comes back against him, and now he's spending his energy going back to the defensive zone and spending the wrong energy down there defending."

Eichel wasn't alone in the defensive end. The Panthers swarmed the Sabres for long stretches, especially when the 1-1 game was still up for grabs.

The Wraparound: Panthers 4, Sabres 1

"Coming off a really good game, and we lay an egg for the last 40 minutes," Okposo said. "We've just got to find a way to be more consistent. It's everybody. It's especially our forwards. I think we bear the brunt of the responsibility in that game.

"We didn't manage the puck. We weren't hard enough to play against down low. We let our D get just plastered all night, and we didn't have enough outs for them. We've got to be better as a group."

The team looked good during Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Washington. They looked bad while falling back into last.

"We scored one goal," Eichel said. "I just felt like we didn't create as much. I felt like we probably turned too many pucks over.

"It just wasn't there. We didn't make a lot of plays. We were chasing the game a bit, and that's what happened. They played a pretty patient game, made some plays, made more plays than we did, and that's why we lost."

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