The Buffalo Sabres look really good when they're chasing games. When they're trailing late and need a push to get back in the game. That's when the pucks start flying on the net. That's when the desperation sets in.
But that desperation is too often too little, too late.
It happened again on Tuesday night as the Sabres were blanked by the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, in KeyBank Center. It was the second straight shutout loss and the Sabres have not scored a goal in the last 120 minutes, 51 seconds.
"I've said it before," Sabres forward Evander Kane said about playing with desperation. "It's getting worse and worse and we have nothing to lose."
"I feel we need to play with more desperation from the start of the game," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We can't be waiting and chasing games and then we have to shorten the bench and all of a sudden we have the urgency when we're backed in a corner. We have to have that same attitude to start the game. ... Show more emotion on the ice."
Kane had some colorful words to describe the frustration of the forwards. He lead the team with seven shots on goal and continues to lead the Sabres in scoring with 12 goals through 25 games.
But that's not good enough. More goals need to come. Kane used the baseball analogy of giving their goaltenders "run support" because the goaltending has, for the most part, kept the Sabres in games this season. If only they could put the puck in the net at the other end.
"We shouldn't have to create the emotion but some nights you have to create it," Kane said. "Some nights you don't got it and you've got to find a way to create it inside yourself and play with that urgency and battle. ... I can't create emotion inside of you. I could be rah-rah but you have to prepare individually and be ready to play. I think you have to accept your role, you have to play your role to the best of your ability.
"For us it's just a lack of hardness. We've got to bear down and score goals," Kane said. "You've got to be pissed off. You're a goal scorer and not scoring? That should piss you off. That should make you want to score. That should make you want to throw every puck you possibly can at the net. You get a puck four feet away from the net, throw it at the net, put it in the crease."
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Zach Bogosian remained scratched as he works his way back from a lower-body injury he suffered during the preseason.
"I think we have some quality practice time this week and obviously after the practice Monday, which was pretty up-pace in tempo, you could see his pivoting to that one side was not where it needs to be," Housley said after the team's morning skate on Tuesday. But I think we can take advantage of this week and our practices."
The cautious approach is fine with Bogosian, who already suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from this injury.
"I’m feeling better and better every day," Bogosian said. "It's one of those things that just takes a little bit of time. It's not one of those things you can grit your teeth and kinda grind through. You've got to be smart about it. I think we've done a good job so far. No setbacks since I've been skating with the team."
One of the benefits to playing in the Winter Classic is being part of an NHL documentary series. The shows featuring the Buffalo Sabres will be easily accessible.
The NHL's "Road to the Winter Classic" is moving to NBCSN. The behind-the-scenes series was on HBO for its first three seasons and EPIX the last three seasons. ESPN first reported the move of the show, which it said will air Wednesday nights.
NBCSN is the league's television rights-holder in the United States and is part of most cable and satellite packages.
The Sabres will play the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 in Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The shows will serve as previews.
The Buffalo Sabres next have a home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions suffered a big loss to their lineup Monday night as goaltender Matt Murray was knocked out but could also have a big addition in the return of Evgeni Malkin when they play the Sabres Friday in KeyBank Center.
Murray is out for the weekend and is listed as week to week after suffering a lower-body injury during Monday night's game against Philadelphia. Murray took a direct hit from Jakub Voracek as the Philadelphia forward slid into him on the tail end of a breakaway. Rookie Tristan Jarry is now the Penguins' No. 1 goaltender and Pittsburgh called up Casey DeSmith from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back him up.
Meanwhile, Malkin continues to skate on his own as he recovers from an upper-body injury and the Penguins said today he is scheduled to travel to Buffalo. That means he will likely take the morning skate here Friday to determine if he can return after sitting out four games.
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There will be a One Buffalo Community Blood Drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4 at the Lexus Club inside KeyBank Center. The event is a partnership between Unyts and Pegula Sports and Entertainment. Participants can give blood and will also be able to register as organ donors.
All donors will receive a pair of Unyts One Buffalo gloves and have the opportunity to meet Bills and Sabres alumni. Donors can make an appointment by visiting www.untys.org/teamunyts. Walk-ins are also welcome. There will be free parking in the HarborCenter ramp.