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Sabres enter dangerous part of schedule in return from Global Series

The Buffalo Sabres are entering a dangerous part of the schedule.

The Sabres were off again Tuesday, their third consecutive day away from the ice after completing their two-game series in Stockholm against Tampa Bay. They return to practice Wednesday morning in KeyBank Center, then open a stretch of three games in four nights when they host Carolina here Thursday.

That starts a run of 10 games in 17 days for the Sabres. They entered Tuesday in fifth in the Atlantic Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference and 19th overall in the NHL standings. It's a precipitous slide for a team that opened the season 8-1-1 and was first overall as recently as Oct. 29.

The NHL introduced the two-game November Global Series in 2017 after a six-year hiatus from games in Europe that were strictly season openers, including the Sabres' 2011 trip to Finland and Germany.

Teams that make the big trip have to be careful their seasons don't rival the collapse Ottawa endured two years ago. None of the previous four teams to play in the Global Series has won a playoff round, which has to be especially sobering to the Lightning. Here's a look at how the previous visitors to Scandinavia have fared:

Ottawa (2017-18): The Senators started the season strong, with points in 10 of the first 11 games. A pair of 4-3 wins over Colorado in Stockholm left them 8-3-5 on Nov. 11. It was the high point of their season.

They returned home from Sweden, and the offense disappeared – even though they had acquired Matt Duchene from the Avs just before leaving for Sweden.

The Sens went 0-6-1 the rest of November and scored only nine goals in the seven games. A 6-5 win in Brooklyn over the New York Islanders snapped that streak, but it was followed by five more losses, including a 3-2 defeat to the Sabres in KeyBank Center on Dec. 13.

The Sens won just one of their first 13 after the trip and never won three games in a row until March. They finished the season out of the playoffs at 28-43-11. Post-Sweden record: 20-40-6.

Colorado (2017-18): The Avs went 9-9-2 in the 20 games after the Sweden trip – but then ripped off a 10-game winning streak from Dec. 29 to Jan. 22. They never won more than three in a row or lost more than three the rest of the way and finished 43-30-9 before losing in the first round of the playoffs to Nashville in six games. Post-Sweden record: 35-23-8.

Florida (2018-19): The Panthers split two games with Winnipeg in Helsinki and left Finland at 3-5-3. After six days off, they won their first four games stateside. But they didn't win three in a row again until January and had losing streaks of four, six and seven games. They finished out of the playoffs at 36-32-14. Post-Finland record: 33-27-11.

Winnipeg (2018-19): The Jets left Finland 8-5-1 and won their first three on this side of the ocean. Winnipeg didn't drop three straight until February but then lost eight of 10. The Jets finished 47-30-5 and were six-game losers to St. Louis in the first round after making the West final the year before. Post-Finland record: 39-25-4.

The long journey is over but Sabres' intrigue is just beginning

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