BUFFALO – How bad are the Sabres early in games? Really bad.
Opponents have outscored the struggling Sabres 40-15 in the first period and outshot them 493-336 entering tonight’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers inside the First Niagara Center. In Thursday’s 7-0 loss to Minnesota, the Wild scored twice and outshot the Sabres 15-3 in the opening period.
“We talk about that all the time going into games, we have to have good starts, let’s throw some pucks at the net,” said coach Ted Nolan, whose Sabres have lost nine straight games. “All of a sudden, 10 minutes in, we have one shot.
“It starts off with the faceoffs. We got to start winning some draws, we have possession of the puck. If we lose a lot of those draws, we’re chasing the puck all the time, especially when we’re in the defensive zone.”
The Sabres have won only 45 percent of their faceoffs, the NHL’s lowest number.
In other news, defenseman Mike Weber (undisclosed injury) will likely miss the next two games. Weber had knee surgery last month. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros will be a healthy scratch. Defensemen Andre Benoit and Tyson Strachan will move in.
Goalie Michal Neuvirth will make his 18th start tonight.
Meanwhile, captain Brian Gionta (upper body) will miss his 12th straight game tonight and likely won’t return until after the NHL All-Star break.
Look for the gritty fourth line of Nick Deslauriers, Matt Ellis and Patrick Kaleta to receive more ice time tonight.
“Patty said something in the room the other night,” Nolan said, “he said, ‘I wish I could do more.’ So that was a good to get that step. He wants more, so we’ll give him a little bit more ice time and let them do a little bit more.”