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Sabres, Senators square off in matchup of slumping sides

Sportsnaut
Nov 12, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres right wing Tage Thompson (72) waits for the face-off during the second period against the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams looking to snap out of funks will collide when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.

Buffalo arrives in the Canadian capital amid a six-game losing streak after a 5-4 defeat against the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

The Sabres spotted the Canucks three two-goal leads in the contest, including a 2-0 gap before the midpoint of the opening period. Buffalo pulled to within a goal multiple times, only to have Vancouver respond.

“Too easy out of the gate,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “That is a big lesson that needs to be learned now. Period.”

The Sabres had won three straight before the slide began with a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 4. Buffalo has allowed 29 goals over the past six games and has trailed entering the third period four times during that stretch.

“I think guys in here are really hard on themselves,” Buffalo forward Alex Tuch said. “That’s good to keep yourself accountable, but you also have to continue to try to work and play your game and not let it get into your head.”

Tuch ended a three-game point drought with a goal and two assists on Tuesday, his second three-point night of the season and first since scoring a hat trick on Oct. 20 at Calgary. The winger ranks third on the team with eight goals and is tied for third with 14 points.

Buffalo center Tage Thompson continued his stellar start to the season, extending his point streak to five games with a pair of assists. He has 10 goals and eight assists in his past nine games.

The Senators have dropped eight of their past nine, a stretch that included a seven-game slide before they earned a 4-1 win against the host Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Ottawa then fell 4-2 to the visiting New York Islanders on Monday.

Ottawa entered the season with higher aspirations after adding the likes of forwards Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat and goaltender Cam Talbot in the offseason, but the team has stumbled through the first month of the season with just five wins through 15 games.

Despite the Senators’ struggles, general manager Pierre Dorion said he doesn’t see a coaching change as a cure to what ails the club.

“Coaching is not the issue. Simple as that. That’s it,” he told the Ottawa Sun. “For me, it’s the first time we’ve given D.J. (Smith) a team that can compete for a possible playoff spot, so I think we’ve got to be patient there.”

The Senators will try to right the ship without top defenseman Thomas Chabot for at least a week. He was diagnosed with a concussion, sustained when he was checked into the boards by Flyers forward Travis Konecny on Saturday.

Chabot has been a minute-muncher for the Senators, averaging 25:45 of ice time, the fourth-highest average in the NHL — one spot behind Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin.

Chabot’s absence means more responsibility for rookie Jake Sanderson, who has impressed his teammates.

“He’s been great for us since the start of the season,” Giroux said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but he has a lot of maturity in his game. He’s a very intelligent player, and he has all you could want in a defenseman. I’m not surprised he’s playing well now.”

Sanderson, who has seven assists, ranks third among NHL rookies with an average of 20:13 of ice time. He played 25:13 against the Islanders on Monday, his highest figure this season.

–Field Level Media