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Sabres Notebook: Nice days hard to come by; Winter Classic jersey is back

It's another afternoon game for the Buffalo Sabres.


Buffalo is 0-5-1 in day games this season. The next matinee comes Monday when Washington visits KeyBank Center for a 3 p.m. matchup.

Someone should probably just tell the Sabres it starts at 1 p.m.

While little went right for the Sabres in any of the day games – they've been outscored, 27-10 – the starts have been particularly troublesome. They've given up the opening goal in five of the six, and it came early in all of them.

Washington will be eager to pounce after getting embarrassed, 7-1, in Chicago on Saturday night.

"We've got to focus on what we can control, and that's getting ready to play Washington," Sabres coach Phil Housley said Sunday. "After their loss against Chicago, they're going to be ready to respond.

"It's an odd time, 3 o'clock, but I think the message to our players is get ready for a team that's going to be pushing back, so to speak, and we have to be prepared for that, but we have to have our own push as well."

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The Sabres had little pushback during their latest afternoon game, a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. The Kings scored 11:26 into the game and rolled to a 4-0 lead after two periods.

It wasn't an afternoon anomaly:

  • During New Jersey's visit Oct. 9, the Devils scored 6:28 in and held a 6-1 lead after two periods. They won, 6-2.
  • San Jose scored 9:12 into its visit Oct. 28. Although it was 2-2 after two periods, the Sabres lost, 3-2.
  • The New York Rangers scored 4:09 into the New Year's Day Winter Classic. They held a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes and won, 3-2, in overtime.
  • Buffalo actually had a good start Jan. 7 in Philadelphia. It held a 12-5 shot advantage through a scoreless first period and netted the opening goal in the second. But the Flyers quickly rallied for a 2-1 lead en route to a 4-1 victory.
  • Dallas scored 5:03 into its visit Jan. 20 and jumped to a 6-1 lead after two periods. The Stars embarrassed the Sabres, 7-1.

Now the Sabres are looking to rebound after the latest embarrassing start to the Kings.

"They came out and had a really good push," Housley said after an optional practice in KeyBank Center. "They checked well, and we didn't have a pushback, which was disappointing."

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The Sabres and Capitals have met once. Buffalo won, 3-1, during Washington's visit Nov. 7. It opened with a 15-4 shot lead during a scoreless first and sealed the game into an empty net.

"Passion and emotion is a great tool," Housley said. "We have to have more emotion. I think we have to play with more passion.

"We had a really good game against Washington last time we played in here. We're going to try to use some of those examples of why we played the way we did, and we have to prepare that way. I just think we have to control what we can control, and that's how we prepare individually, as a group, as a coaching staff to get ready to play."

* * *

The Rochester Americans are missing some of their key offensive catalysts. A primary role player has to sit now.

The American Hockey League has suspended forward Colin Blackwell for two games, a penalty that began with Sunday's visit by the Binghamton Devils. The league didn't announce the exact reason for the suspension (other than "supplementary discipline"), but it is most assuredly for a hit early in Friday's 12-3 victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

As Blackwell and Penguins defenseman Luka Bengtsson chased a loose puck into Wilkes-Barre's zone, Blackwell turned his attention to Bengtsson after the defenseman pushed the puck. Blackwell gave a two-arm shove that sent Bengtsson flying into the boards.

Bengtsson suffered an injury.

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Blackwell has five goals and 19 points in 39 games with the Amerks, who are 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. They have been without top scorer C.J. Smith (injury) and fellow offensive-minded players Nick Baptiste, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Nelson, who are playing in Buffalo.

* * *

The Sabres will wear their white Winter Classic uniforms against the Capitals. They are 1-0-1 in the gear. After the Jan. 1 setback to the Rangers, they dropped the New York Islanders, 4-3, at home two weeks ago.

The Sabres will hand out Winter Classic jersey-themed towels before Monday's game.

* * *

The Sabres had 16 players take part in Sunday's optional practice: Josh Gorges, Marco Scandella, Nelson, Jacob Josefson, Baptiste, Jordan Nolan, Scott Wilson, Johan Larsson, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Jason Pominville, Chad Johnson, Justin Falk, Rodrigues, Nathan Beaulieu and Ryan O’Reilly.

How do you sell Sabres tickets that no one wants? You don't.

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