The rink is not a fun place for the Buffalo Sabres these days. The atmosphere in KeyBank Center was grim Thursday morning as about half the Sabres took to the ice for a light, optional workout after a team meeting.
Four losses in a row and a seven-game winless streak will do that.
"It's obviously not very much fun to be at the rink right now and that's never a good feeling," Kyle Okposo said Thursday morning. "We just feel like we're letting a lot of people down and we just have to find a way to make some changes. I think as a group we have to come together as a team and just really buy in. Otherwise it's just going to be a miserable year."
After Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Sabres locker room was closed for about 15 minutes. Thursday morning the players had another prolonged meeting as the word "accountability" has become the buzzword.
"We've got to find a way to do our own jobs and push each other to be better basically," Ryan O'Reilly said. "We're not satisfied. This is nothing that we wanted. We have to get back. We have to start making each other look good.
"We have to be able to hold each other accountable and find ways to push each other," O'Reilly said. "What we're doing isn't working so we have to find a way to do better."
The notion of accountability, not only for oneself but in calling out teammates, has become a growing theme in the Sabres dressing room, mostly for the lack of it in the room. Jordan Nolan made the observation after Wednesday's loss.
Okposo picked up the theme Thursday. When asked if the way players hold teammates accountable has changed since he entered the league in 2008, he considered the question then responded. "Yes. I think it has."
"When I first came in the league I just kind of stuck to myself and tried to follow the veteran guys," Okposo said. "If I did something that was wrong or not the right way, you had Bill Guerin or Doug Weight or Brendan Witt saying, 'Hey kid, do this. You can't do that. You can't do that here. You can't do that in this league.' And kinda seems like it's gotten away from that a little bit and maybe that's my fault. You know in the last year before I got hurt I tried to get some accountability in the locker room and we need more of it."
When the Buffalo Sabres play the Edmonton Oilers, the storyline usually turns toward Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. The two forwards who went No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the 2015 NHL Draft will forever have their hockey careers intertwined, much to their current chagrin.
But when the Sabres and Oilers meet this time, a 7 p.m. Friday night tilt in KeyBank Center, there are some other considerations.
Like which team will be desperate enough to earn the win.
While the Sabres are reeling with four straight losses, a winless skid of 0-5-2, and 30th place in the NHL standings, the Oilers aren't far ahead. In fact, they're just four points ahead, sitting in 29th place with eight wins in 22 games.
Edmonton stopped the bleeding Wednesday night with a 6-2 win against the Red Wings in Detroit. That came after an embarrassing 8-3 loss to the Blues in St. Louis where for all intents and purposes the Oilers just plain quit playing. That loss capped a three-game losing streak in which the Oilers give up 18 goals.
There was redemption in Detroit for the Oilers, but no one was celebrating just yet.
"We needed this game," said Edmonton's Mark Letestu after Wednesday's game in Detroit. "There was a desperation and urgency that we're used to, but we've put ourselves in this position and everybody responded appropriately. We got it done five-on-five. Everybody came here with something to prove, a chip on their shoulder, and it showed up.
"I guess we'll answer the question about whether we can do it for more than one night next game," Letestu said. "There's been a lot of lip service that this is the one that change things, but we have to show up Friday in Buffalo."
For the record, McDavid leads the Oilers in scoring with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 22 games. He's averaging 1.27 points per game in 21:35 of ice time per game.
Eichel is second on the Sabres in scoring with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 22 games. That's a 0.82 point-per-game pace in 20:41 of ice time.