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Family time brings perspective, and pressure, to Sabres

When Jason Pominville became a regular in the National Hockey League lineup, he was 23 years old.

So he did what most 23-year-olds who spent their life playing hockey and working toward an NHL career did — he thought about hockey. All. The. Time.

He still thinks about hockey away from the rink, but not nearly as much now. Not with his two kids, Jayden (8) and Kaylee (6), who keep both him and his wife, Kim, pretty busy.

"I would say earlier on in my career when I didn't have kids, you'd go home and think about hockey and think about the games and stuff maybe too much and you'd overthink things and get down on yourself if things weren't going well," Pominville said. "But now, I mean, not that I don't think about it. I still do. But you have them to worry about their homework, their gymnastics, their hockey, whatever they've got going on that day or that night. It's a good way to get away from it for sure."

Things, for sure, aren't going well for the Buffalo Sabres.

The team is winless in its last five games, going 0-3-2 in that span. They lost back-to-back games, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday and a 3-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday in KeyBank Center. Both performances were lackluster.

The players had Sunday off, part of the mandatory off-days negotiated into the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players are not allowed to practice, travel or participate in organized team activities on those days.

Perhaps the day off will help refocus players. Perhaps players with families of their own will get a chance to gain a little perspective.

Or perhaps they'll feel a little more pressure to perform.

That's the balance Robin Lehner noticed he's had to deal with. He and his wife, Donya, welcomed their second child, Zoe, last month. Their son, Lennox, is 3 years old.

"For sure, you go home you see your kids, you're with your family, your mind gets off the game a little bit," Lehner said. "But also, I love the game of hockey and you also do this for your family. This is also our job. You come home and you're with your kids, you feel a responsibility to try and perform and do well. They're part of the reason why you wake up in the morning and go to work. It's both. It puts a lot of things in perspective. It also gives you a certain amount of responsibility and a little sense of pressure where you're trying to provide for your family."

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The road only becomes more difficult for the Sabres who host the hot Columbus Blue Jackets in KeyBank Center at 7 p.m. Monday.

Columbus is on a three-game winning streak, coming off a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers on Friday. On Sunday morning, the Blue Jackets were tied for first in the Metropolitan Division, along with New Jersey and Pittsburgh, with 25 points.

But winning doesn't come easy. Nor does it mean complacency. Columbus coach John Tortorella benched defenseman David Savard in Friday's win. After a practice Sunday morning, Columbus media reported that Savard would be back in the lineup.

"Savy has to be one of our top guys in the back end if we’re going to get where we want to be," Tortorella said. "But sometimes you need to sit, watch, re-evaluate and let it sink in that I have to be better."

In their meeting in Columbus on Oct. 25, the Blue Jackets earned a 5-1 win over the Sabres. Columbus had a 4-0 lead until Seth Griffith broke Sergei Bobrovsky's shutout bid in the final three minutes of the game.

The Blue Jackets have scored the first goal in their last four games and six of their past seven. They are 8-3-1 when scoring first. And they've gotten scoring from the blue line. Defenseman Zach Werenski scored the game-winning goal for Columbus in its last two games.

* * *

Monday's game is the second of a four-game homestand for the Sabres and the start of a busy work week. Buffalo hosts Minnesota on Wednesday and Edmonton (featuring Connor McDavid) on Friday before heading to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Saturday.

* * *

The news down on the farm is a bit brighter for Sabres fans. While the Rochester Americans were blanked by Binghamton, 5-0, on Saturday, they woke up Sunday morning still tied for second place in the North Division of the American Hockey League.

The Amerks have nine wins, five losses, one overtime loss and one shootout loss, giving them 20 points along with the Laval Rockets.

And Rochester's rookie class is putting up some good numbers.

C.J. Smith is third in rookie scoring in the AHL with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 16 games including two power-play goals. He leads the current roster of the Amerks in scoring as well.

Meanwhile, Brendan Guhle is tied for first in scoring among rookie AHL defensemen. He has 10 points in 16 games with two of his three goals coming on the power play.

The Amerks play Wednesday at Syracuse then have a back-to-back series with the Binghamton Devils over the weekend, playing in Rochester's Blue Cross Arena on Friday (7:05 p.m.) and traveling to Binghamton on Saturday.

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