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Another day in Sabreland: No excuse to ever lose to Red Wings

Mike Harrington

Where do the Sabres go from here? In Ralph Krueger's small picture, they hopped a plane and headed to New York for Friday's game in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

But while the coach isn't entertaining any big-picture analysis of his season – and he's right to play it that way – the fact of the matter is the wheels are falling off to unspeakable levels again. Just as captain Jack Eichel insisted they wouldn't last week.

Losing to the Detroit Red Wings in any circumstance, for any reason, at any time is unacceptable.

The Wings are likely going to finish as the worst team in the NHL's salary cap era. Yes, worse than the Sabres' tank teams.

Even if the Sabres would have come back to win Thursday night, it would have felt like a loss.

They tried to play one period and get two points. Almost worked. But Detroit snapped its nine-game winless streak with a 4-3 shootout victory.

The Wraparound: Detroit Red Wings 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

Where is the Buffalo team that beat Vegas and Dallas? That wasn't six months ago or last season. That was three weeks ago. That team didn't come back from the All-Star break. Is it on a beach somewhere?

"We were more desperate in those games," Eichel said softly. "I just think we need to find more desperation."

The Sabres, of course, are always going for the positives. They had a 55-30 edge in shot attempts and 32-21 advantage on goal. It was 14-4 in the third period, when they scored three goals. A 6-on-5 pull of Jonas Johansson worked as Evan Rodrigues scored the tying goal with 46 seconds left.

Shootouts are meh. Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou scored for Detroit. Eichel and Sam Reinhart didn't for Buffalo. Should we be celebrating a win if things went differently?

Fans spent the first two hours in the building booing the Sabres when they returned to the ice after the intermissions. Their play was so passionless that it was ridiculous.

Reinhart who correctly said teammates have to "step the hell up" after Tuesday's embarrassment against Colorado, openly loafed back on Larkin's goal in the final second of the first period.

He had spent a shift of 1 minute, 42 seconds and had just hit the post after some neat moves through the Detroit zone. But the Wings broke away and Reinhart played the clock. He wasn't saved by the bell.

Gassed or not, futile chase or not, there needed to be any sort of all-out effort and not a coast back in the play.

Pressed on the topic, Reinhart simply said, "I don't think I'm going to value that question right now." (I think he may have meant "validate" but the point is the same).

"Speaking to them coming into the room, they were pressing that one without respect for how much time was still left on the clock," Krueger said. "I do not see a lack of effort from Sam Reinhart."

Here's hoping that's a public stance and Krueger has something different to say privately.

The coach continues to bear responsibility. He seems to have lost Jeff Skinner, whose $9 million contract sat on the bench for all of overtime and his 16th straight game without a goal.

Krueger pointed out how Rodrigues, Curtis Lazar and Colin Miller were going well in this game. He's not wrong. They were. But your stars have to play when it's winning time. Especially when your general manager has put a team together that's flat-out not good enough.

The hockey world is closing in on the Sabres. While the local media has said the same things many times the last few years, things are much worse elsewhere now.

There's no glad-handing of the Pegulas or GM Jason Botterill anymore by out-of-towners.

TSN insider Darren Dreger said Wednesday on radio in Toronto that it was time for the Pegulas to publicly acknowledge the fans and discuss what's going on with this team.

Good luck to Dreger on that one. Of course, he's only seven years late on making that point compared to the Buffalo media.

NBC discussed the Sabres Wednesday and all night Thursday. ESPN.com had a major feature on the team Thursday. TSN Radio in Toronto actually entertained the possibility of Eichel ever pondering a trade, a remote thought at best.

The fans are fed up. Krueger and Botterill have to prevent what happened here last March or they'll almost certainly face the same fate as Phil Housley. No one in this organization has any answers. There's little accountability.

"There's a bite in that room. They don't want this season to fall away," Krueger said. "They want to fight against this storm that we're fighting against. We have to stick together and we have to work together on solutions and that's all we can do in this adversity right now."

"No one is going to live with the result more than us," Eichel said. "That's the biggest thing we have to look at. I'm kind of sick and tired about everything else around. It's about us in the room. We have to do it and that's what we try to deal with on a day to day basis."

Jason Botterill admits frustration with Sabres goes all the way up to ownership

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