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Sabres' Patrik Berglund 'not worried' about slow start, individual stats

Patrik Berglund isn’t concerned about his slow start, the two goals and two assists in 22 games or his career-low shooting percentage putting him on pace for a career-low seven goals over a full season.

Berglund has already been a healthy scratch twice this season, his first with the Buffalo Sabres after being acquired in the offseason from the St. Louis Blues as part of the package of players and draft picks for Ryan O’Reilly.

He’s since been shuffled from second-line center to fourth-line wing.

“It’s been obviously a change to come to a new team. I’ve never done that before,” Berglund said. “But just overall, a little tougher start. I’ve been known for being a slow starter too, in the beginning of the season, so I’m not worried about the whole point thing. That was a lot of years ago I really cared about that. It’s just the overall work and how you can help the team now that’s more important.”

Berglund, 30, spent his first 10 seasons with the Blues after being drafted with a first-round pick in 2006. He has three 20-goal seasons, and set a career high with 23 goals in the 2016-17 season and appeared in every game.

Berglund managed just one goal in the first 30 games that season, but unleashed 16 over the next 30, leading the Blues to sign him to a five-year extension.

Although he was sidelined for the first two months of last season because of shoulder surgery, he returned to finish with 17 goals in 57 games, a pace of 24 goals over a full season. But the Blues missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, leading to a roster shakeup and his arrival in Buffalo.

He has four more years remaining on his deal with an average value of $3.8 million per season.

In Buffalo, Berglund has largely been playing left wing on the fourth line, alongside center Johan Larsson and right wing Zemgus Girgensons.

Sabres coach Phil Housley likes that combination.

“I’d like to have a little more secondary scoring, obviously, from our other lines,” Housley said. “I think with Bergy, Larsson and Zemgus, they’re very trustworthy and reliable. You can put them in the D zone against anybody. They scored a goal in Tampa, which was great, and they have contributed, but they change the momentum of the game when they’re getting in the offensive zone, trying to cycle.

“We’d like to have them generate more, but I like them wearing the other teams down. In the defensive zone, they’ve been reliable and they’re doing their job. ... That line really started the whole win streak. They set the pace, they create momentum. They’re momentum-changers. I’m really happy with that line.”

Sabres Notebook: Big bounceback for Berglund

Berglund, a center for the bulk of his career, said he’s fine playing wing, a position he played with the Blues for much of last season. He said he doesn’t prefer or feel more comfortable playing one over the other.

“For me, it doesn’t matter anymore,” he said.

A veteran on a young team, Berglund said that his mindset has changed over time from worrying about individual stats to team success and imparting that wisdom on his teammates.

“I think it’s how you play overall,” Berglund said. “The 200-foot game is very important to get team success. That’s something that I take pride in, and if you keep doing that right, other guys will get their chances to score goals and in the end you’ll find your way there, too.”

Berglund missed the final five games of the Sabres’ recent 10-game winning streak with an upper body injury.

But he’s been finding ways to contribute without scoring.

He’s winning a career-high 58.6 percent of his faceoffs at even strength, including three in the offensive zone in the final 1:11 of a loss at Nashville on Monday night. Those three faceoff victories translated into five shots on goal. He managed a shot during that frantic series, as well, but his attempt missed just wide of the net.

Buffalo Sabres center Patrik Berglund skates with the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period action at the KeyBank Center on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

For comparison’s sake, Sabres third-line center Evan Rodrigues is winning just 46.8 percent of his faceoffs. Larsson is winning 50.1 percent.

“He’s strong on the puck and obviously he’s been around a long time,” forward Jeff Skinner said about Berglund. “He’s good on faceoffs. He’s good in the room. There’s a lot of good things. … I think you just keep working. It’s one of those things where everyone is going to go through ups and downs throughout the season, and you try to be as successful as you can.”

Berglund lost his lone faceoff attempt in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto, the Sabres’ fourth consecutive defeat since he returned from injury. His lone shot on goal was stopped by Frederik Andersen.

While the fourth line was excellent in the first period, the second was a different story. Berglund was late covering Jake Gardiner, who scored on John Tavares’ backhanded pass to give the Leafs a 2-1 advantage. He finished the game with a minus-2 rating.

Berglund isn’t satisfied with his contributions. He wants to generate more scoring chances, but he doesn’t want to press.

“I think it will come,” Berglund said. “It’s been a pretty tough start, but it’s a long season and there is nothing to pout about. You’ve just got to keep working hard. As long as you create some chances in the games, things will turn around.”

•••

The Sabres assigned defenseman Matt Tennyson to Rochester. Tennyson was recalled as insurance before Friday's game at Florida because Marco Scandella and Jake McCabe were sidelined. Scandella is on injured reserve and McCabe has missed the past three games.

The move likely means McCabe or Scandella will be available for Saturday's Sabres game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Tennyson started the season with the Sabres and has appeared in 15 games with the team. He has one assist in seven games with the Amerks this season.

•••

Ben Sexton, the son of Sabres assistant general manager Randy Sexton, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 27-year-old defenseman, Sexton comes to Pittsburgh along with defenseman Macoy Erkamps from the Ottawa Senators for Stefan Elliott and Tobias Lindberg.

Sexton, a Clarkson product, appeared in two NHL games last season. In his second season with Belleville in the AHL, he has nine assists in 17 games.

•••

Mattias Samuelsson, a defenseman who was selected by the Sabres in the second round in June, is among 29 players named to Team USA' s Junior National Team preliminary roster. A freshman at Western Michigan, Samuelsson has three goals and three assists in 14 games with a plus-9 rating.

The team will have training camp Dec. 15-17 in Everett, Wash., and then play exhibition games in advance of the IIHF World Junior Championship in British Columbia from Dec. 26 to Jan 5.

Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and defenseman Oskari Laaksonen have been named to Finland's preliminary roster and forward Matej Pekar has been selected by the Czech Republic.

News Sports Writer Lance Lysowski contributed to this report. 

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