Sabres look to break slump against red-hot Flames


The task doesn't get any easier for the Buffalo Sabres.

Amidst a free fall that's seen them go from atop the league on Thanksgiving to outside a playoff spot, the Sabres are in desperate need of a reboot following their latest defeat.

After a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night to kick off a Western Canada road swing, the Sabres (23-17-6) face the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

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The Flames (30-13-4) currently sit atop the Western Conference, are riding a five-game winning streak and on a torrid 8-1-1 run. Oh yeah, not only are the Flames one of the league's most prolific squads, they're coming off a 7-1 throttling of the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.

"Maybe this is one of those games that gives you a little bit of an eye opener," Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues told the Buffalo News after the Edmonton defeat.

Added center Jack Eichel: "We have a lot of hockey left in this season, and I know we're going through a rough patch right now. It seems like earlier in the year we were going through a patch where everything was going our way and now everything is going the opposite way. At this point, we have to stick together and find a way out of it."

The problem for the Sabres is they have so many issues to solve right now. They're struggling to score, surrendering goals at key times, sputtering on special teams, all the usual elements that see a team lose three straight games and go 3-8-1 over the last 12 outings.

"We have to focus on what we can control," Sabres coach Phil Housley said after Monday's loss. "Obviously this game was quite alarming -- the things that happened out there -- but we can't focus on them or control what just happened. We can learn from it and we can work on what we need to improve tomorrow."

The Flames may be riding high, but certainly can't afford a letdown. Amazingly, their two closest teams in the Pacific Division standings, the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, were also on 8-1-1 runs going into Tuesday's action.

"I think it's helped us, honestly," said Flames captain Mark Giordano, who was named the NHL's first star of the week. "When you watch them on our off-nights and you watch them win, it gives you that motivation, for sure. We've worked hard to get where we are. We don't want to slip back and slip down in the standings, and they're really pushing us."

The Flames have won 30 wins in 47 for only the second time in franchise history, with the other being the Stanley Cup-winning 1988-89 campaign.

However, they've been constantly reminded there aren't prizes for being atop the standings in mid-January.

"It's nice in the locker-room. It's always more fun to win, but I think what I like the most is that nobody is satisfied," forward Garnet Hathaway told Postmedia. "You don't get an award, you don't get a ring, you don't get a Cup for being in first place for the middle of the season, right? There's nothing for that.

"So I think right now, it's about building on it."

--Field Level Media

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