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Sabres Notebook: Carter Hutton not discouraged by bad luck

CALGARY — Carter Hutton had every reason to deflect the blame to his Buffalo Sabres teammates. After all, they gave him little help in a 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Rogers Place on Monday night.

Their unforced errors led Hutton being pulled after the 33-year-old goalie allowed five goals on 12 shots. It has been a difficult five weeks for Hutton. He has lost eight of his last nine starts, and it's unclear if he'll be called on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames in Scotiabank Saddledome.

Like the rest of the Sabres, luck hasn't been on Hutton's side. Four pucks have gone off his defensemen and into the net over his past two starts.

"It’s tough," Hutton said. "It is what it is. I always hold myself accountable. It’s easy to sit here and say, ‘If this didn’t happen, if that didn’t happen.’ My job is to make saves and right now I’ve just kind of been — for whatever reason it’s just not going my way."

Hutton, who signed a three-year contract with the Sabres in the offseason, bailed out his teammates during their 10-game winning streak. He had a .936 save percentage during eight of those wins, including 36-save performances against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and San Jose.

Hutton has two wins in his last 12 starts, posting a .898 save percentage during that span. Though he has allowed a few soft goals during this stretch, his teammates haven't given him or Linus Ullmark much help, as illustrated Monday night in Edmonton.

They admittedly took their goaltending for granted during the winning streak. Suddenly, many of their mistakes are ending up in the back of the net and Monday's result could have been worse. Hutton stopped a pair of 2-on-1 odd-man rushes during the second period.

Sabres work to correct mistakes ahead of matchup against Calgary

"I give Carter a lot of credit for battling through it, these situations," coach Phil Housley said. "You look at the game in Carolina, you look at this game. Can he do anything different? Especially in the second period, if he doesn’t make some big saves it’s 10-2. … I know there’s a lot of people that are down on him, but you think of the games that he’s given us. He’s going through a tough stretch and a lot of it’s not just him, it’s the guys around him."

Hutton isn't down on himself. Neither are his teammates. He is tied for seventh in goals against average (2.75) and fifth in save percentage (.912) among 17 NHL goalies with at least 30 games played this season.

Ullmark did not have much luck against the Oilers, either. He allowed two goals on 13 shots. Entering Tuesday's games, the Flames (30-13-4) ranked second in the NHL with 64 points and 173 goals, including at least 20 from four different players.

Housley cautioned that another mistake-filled game will lead to another blowout loss, no matter which goalie is in net. Hutton has maintained his composure through it all. He remains a leader on a young team and is hopeful that his luck will turn soon.

"There are certain things in net you can’t control," he said. "When your goalie isn’t playing his best it’s hard to win hockey games and that’s the truth of it. Sometimes it’s a great position, and sometimes it’s a lonely position when you’re not playing well. I just have to keep battling and things are going to turn around for us."

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Sabres prospects Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Alexander Nylander were ranked 13th and 49th, respectively, among TSN's top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects for 2019.

Luukkonen, a 19-year-old goalie, was a second-round draft pick in 2017 and recently led Finland to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships. He has won 10 consecutive starts for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, ranking first among all OHL goaltenders with a 2.42 goals against average.

Nylander, a 20-year-old winger drafted eighth overall in 2016, has nine goals among 24 points in 35 games for the Rochester Americans this season. He was ranked 25th among TSN's top 50 prospects last season.

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Brent Rossi, the executive vice president of marketing and brand strategy for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, was named the Sabres' chief administrative officer on Tuesday. Rossi replaces Mike Gilbert, who resigned as the Sabres' senior vice president of administration and general manager of HarborCenter.

Rossi has been with the Sabres since 2012 and previously worked for the Philadelphia 76ers, WWE and the Harlem Globetrotters. He was named to Sports Business Journal's 40 under 40 list in April.

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