The Buffalo Sabres have a chance to win their third game in a row Thursday when they play host to the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center.
It may not seem like a monumental mark to most hockey teams, but it’s an early-season benchmark for the Sabres.
The Sabres haven’t won three games in a row since Jan. 22-25, when they notched their only three-game winning streak of the 2017-2018 season with victories at Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They haven’t won three consecutive games at home since Jan. 7-20, 2017, when they won four in a row at KeyBank Center.
Buffalo also has a chance for its best start since 2011, when it opened 5-1.
If a team stumbles early in a season, it leaves too much ground to be made up in the playoff chase, as the Sabres know quite well.
“You don’t want to get yourself behind the eight ball early, which we did last year, and then you’re trying to catch up,” right wing Jason Pominville said Wednesday at KeyBank Center. “Most of the time, it’s too late. You get off to a good start, you position yourself well, and we’ve got to make sure we keep it going. It’s only been three, so we have to make sure that we keep playing the right way, and if you do, you usually get success out of it.”
To do that, the Sabres have to sustain the momentum they’ve built in their first two games. Last fall, Buffalo opened the season 3-7-2, including a shootout loss in its season opener against Montreal.
Less than a week ago, it would have been hard to project the Sabres in this position after a lackluster showing in their season opener, a 4-0 home loss to Boston on Oct. 4. The output and the effort didn’t match the enthusiasm the Sabres instilled in their organization during the offseason and in training camp in September.
But in the next two games, Conor Sheary scored a pair of power-play goals in a 3-1 win Saturday against the New York Rangers, and the Sabres got better puck movement from their defensemen and created more opportunities off transition in a 4-2 victory Monday against Vegas.
Carter Hutton’s goaltending has buoyed Buffalo. He has a 2.06 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. He is 5-1 in his career against Colorado, and went 3-0 last season when he played for St. Louis.
“It’s really important that we don’t get complacent,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “We focused on that today, about getting back to work and executing. Certainly, Colorado’s a very good hockey team. They’re a playoff team and they’ve got tremendous speed. We’ve seemed to face some fast teams, so it goes back to what can we control?
“I think our guys have handled that real well. But we’ve got a tough test (Thursday). It would be great to finish the homestand on a high note, but we’re going to have to put in 60 minutes of hard work.”
As the Sabres pursue a small benchmark, Pominville offers some advice to his teammates, especially the younger ones.
“Go out there and play and enjoy the moment and have fun with it,” Pominville said. “Time goes by fast and you realize that you’ve played a lot of games, so you have to make sure you take advantage of it.
“Enjoy the moment.”