Zemgus Girgensons, one of the Sabres’ few bright spots this season, battles Columbus’ David Savard on Thursday. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres trying to avoid another 0-3 start, already searching for answers

BUFFALO – If you’re a glass-is-half-full type, the Sabres have stayed in both of their games until the third period. If you’re a half-empty type, they’re 0-2 and, overall, playing pretty terribly.

The Sabres never lost their first three games in regulation until last season, when they began the worst campaign in franchise history 0-3 and 0-6-1.

Now, they could be 0-3 again. The Anaheim Ducks, who won 31 more games than the Sabres last season, visit the First Niagara Center this afternoon.

In Saturday’s 6-2 loss in Chicago, the Sabres unraveled late, allowing four third-period goals after battling back from an early 2-0 deficit to the Blackhawks, one of the NHL’s powerhouses.

“Old habits are hard to break,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters Saturday in Chicago. “It was almost like we were more content to keep it close. In third period, their star players turned it up a notch. We didn’t.”

The Sabres also began the third period of Thursday’s 3-1 season-opening loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets tied.

“They’re tightening up with their sticks and their plays,” Nolan said. “It’s not naturally doing things that are instinctively right. They’re just really tense for whatever reason.”

He added: “Getting over that hurdle to try to win a game versus trying to stay close to hope to win one is a big difference.”

Clearly, the Sabres are still getting outclassed. They got outshot 40-22 in the opener and 47-23 on Saturday. Chicago had a 19-4 third-period advantage.

Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth faced 40 or more shots twice in 28 appearances last season.

Enroth could be rested soon. The Sabres also play Tuesday in Carolina. Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth will likely start one of the two contests.

The Sabres will almost certainly change their struggling defense corps.

The Andre BenoitAndrej Meszaros pair has performed brutally. Meszaros was a minus-4 on Saturday and is already a minus-5 overall. Benoit’s a minus-3.

The Sabres have two extra defensemen, veteran Tyson Strachan and 19-year-old Nikita Zadorov.

“You might see a change now,” Nolan said about his lineup. “That’s two games now. We can’t continue going this way.”

One bright spot for the Sabres? Second-year center Zemgus Girgensons, who has goals in both games.

“The reason we came back was a guy like Girgensons, and the one thing I think people can take from him is his effort,” Nolan said. “He just works. If you get everybody to do that, we’ll be OK. But, for whatever reason, we had too many passengers.”

Girgensons also scored opening night last season. The Latvian scored his second goal Dec. 7, the team’s 29th game.

Update: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will speak to the media here at 2:30 p.m. Bettman is expected to announce the NHL has awarded the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to Buffalo.

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