Energy, enthusiasm and confidence suddenly are swirling around the Chicago Blackhawks, who are 5-1-1 in their past seven games entering Sunday's visit from the Buffalo Sabres.
Above .500 for the first time this season, the Blackhawks are seeking their fourth straight victory as they open a three-game homestand against Eastern Conference foes.
"I think we feel better with the way we're playing," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "Obviously, we're winning some games and picking up some points so that's important. I still think there's probably another level to our game that we can get to, really control the game and out-play the other team. It's all a work in progress but if we can do that while we're winning games it's obviously a good thing."
Kane extended his point streak to eight games in Saturday's 7-2 road victory against the Nashville Predators, contributing a goal and an assist. The Blackhawks have scored at least five goals in four of their past five games.
Forward Alex Nylander netted a pair of third-period goals in Nashville and will look to stay hot against his former club. The Sabres drafted Nylander eighth overall in 2016, but the 21-year-old was unable to establish himself in Buffalo, which traded him to the Blackhawks late this offseason.
"I think it was time for me," Nylander told the Buffalo News. "It was really good to be traded here. I'm really happy about it. They obviously gave me a chance at the start. I had a really good training camp last year, and it was obviously not fun that I got sent own. It's nice to get a chance here, not just get sent down and come up later. I know I can play in this league, and I'm ready for it."
Buffalo also will be playing for the second time in as many nights after defeating the visiting Ottawa Senators 4-2 on Saturday. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger lauded a "constructive mindset" that guided the club against the Senators. Buffalo lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 in overtime in its previous game Thursday, as forward Johan Larsson left the game with an injury.
With Rasmus Asplund stepping into the lineup in his NHL debut against the Senators, Buffalo's Jack Eichel scored two goals each in the final two periods as Buffalo snapped a six-game winless streak. The four goals were a career high for Eichel, who became the first Sabres player to score four goals in a game since Thomas Vanek on April 10, 2010, also against Ottawa.
The Sabres are 1-4-2 in their past seven games.
"It's still the mental strength that we need to fight through games from beginning to end," Krueger said. "We like the way the group is interacting."
Buffalo's Kyle Okposo left the game midway through the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
Chicago won both meetings between the teams last season, prevailing in a blowout on the road while winning in a shootout at home.
--Field Level Media