The Buffalo Sabres are looking to start strong in November after wrapping up their best month in quite some time.
The Sabres produced a 6-4-2 record in October, their best October points percentage since going 6-4 in 2011 and their best record in a full month since going 7-4-4 in March 2016.
Buffalo finished the month on a five-game point streak, going 3-0-2, their longest since a nine-game point streak in March 2012, when they went 7-0-2.
“I think if you asked me if we were 6-4-2 after the month of October we’d be pretty happy with that and where we sit right now,” coach Phil Housley said after practice Wednesday. “In saying that, you always want more. You want another win in Columbus. You want to win (Tuesday) night against Calgary. But when you look over the body of work, I really like the way we played, maybe since the game in San Jose. Even though it was a lopsided loss, I like the way we played five-on-five. And that carried through into LA and Anaheim and even Montreal.
“If you’re asking me if I had to evaluate October, I think we’ve met our expectation moving forward, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We’re playing some tough teams coming up here.”
A year ago, the Sabres were 3-7-2 in October and already buried.
They finished this October in a playoff spot, in position for the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference, and only three points out of the Atlantic Division lead.
That counts as massive progress, considering the Sabres finished 35 points out of the last playoff spot last season.
“We’re playing some good hockey,” defenseman Jake McCabe said. “We need to continue to take the positives out of our game and focus on the areas that we need to clean up and fix up and then just keep moving forward and keep getting better every day.”
Buffalo begins the new month with three games in four days against teams behind them in the standings.
The upcoming slate includes a home-and-home set Thursday at Ottawa and Saturday against Ottawa at KeyBank Center and a visit to the New York Rangers on Sunday.
“People throw around stats and all these streaks,” said forward Jeff Skinner, whose six goals lead the team and 12 points tie for the team lead with Jack Eichel. “But to me, I think, as a player, you just worry about what you can control and that’s sort of going out there and trying to win the next game.
“I think we believe we have a pretty good team in here and we want to try and work toward getting points every night. That’s the goal. When you go into a game and you have a chance to win and get two points, for us, that’s what we focus on.”
Sabres forward Jason Pominville will play in his 1,000th NHL game Thursday night.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment to play 1,000 games in this league,” Housley said. “The way Jason did it, going through the minors and earning his way up, and scraping and clawing and appreciating what it takes to play in this game. But his approach, I think he lived off those experiences, which helped him.
“But the longevity of everything, that’s just taking care of yourself, having a passion for the game, coming to work every day, enjoying what you’re doing, and you can have a long career.”
Pominville, 35, has played 15 seasons with Buffalo and Minnesota since being selected by the Sabres with the 55th overall pick in the second round of the draft in 2001.
McCabe, Elie to play
McCabe was back on the ice and in his usual spot, the first defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen, after missing Tuesday’s game with an upper body injury.
Remi Elie skated on the second line with Casey Mittelstadt and Sam Reinhart and is expected to play against Ottawa. Elie has appeared in three games this season. He last played Oct. 18 at San Jose.
“He’s been sitting out. He’s fresh. And he’s going to bring some tenacity and physicality on the forecheck," Housley said. “I think he’ll give us a spark, so he’s going to get an opportunity.”
Tage Thompson skated as an extra and appears likely to be a healthy scratch.