|Sabres take slice of optimism into clash with Canucks|
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Little has gone right for the Buffalo Sabres to open the new season, but they're hoping to build off some positive developments from their most recent defeat.
Buffalo (1-4-2) ended its four-game road trip Tuesday with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. It was Buffalo's third loss on the road trip, but the Sabres staged a furious rally with three goals in the third period -- highlighted by Evander Kane's equalizer with 8.9 seconds left in regulation -- before ultimately falling in overtime.
The Sabres will look for a more complete effort on Friday night at home against the Vancouver Canucks.
"I think it's just unacceptable the way we approached the game," Sabres coach Phil Housley told the team's website. "We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process, but the process was a little broken. Our lack of preparation and accountability, and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking.
"I just think it's a mindset. It's how you approach it. We can't keep chasing games right now. We have to be ready to start the game and have that aggression in the first period. We've had it at times."
Kane is one of the few Sabres off to a strong start to the year with five goals and 10 points in seven games. Returning veteran Jason Pominville is tied for second on the team with nine points (four goals) along with young superstar Jack Eichel (two goals, seven assists).
The issues have continued on defense for the Sabres despite a vastly different group than last year. The Sabres made three major changes on the blue line, adding Victor Antipin, Nathan Beaulieu and Marco Scandella but the newcomers have largely struggled with Beaulieu in particular enduring a rough start to his Sabres career.
Buffalo has a quick turnaround with a road game in Boston on Saturday night.
The Canucks (2-3-1) are coming off a disappointing 6-3 loss Thursday to the Bruins. Goaltending is a concern this year for Vancouver with former Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson surrendering four goals on 17 shots against Boston. He was replaced by Jacob Markstrom, whom the Canucks hope will be their goaltender of the future.
"Going into the season, we knew we had two young goalies who were vying to get ice time and trying to be a No. 1," Vancouver coach Travis Green told the Vancouver Sun. "Both of them are very similar at this stage of their career. We've talked about internal competition. You want that for your goalies. We want them to push each other. It's a little different if you have a bonafide one and the No. 2 knows where he's at."
Early injuries have been an issue for Vancouver. The Canucks are without defenseman Alex Edler and high-priced forward Loui Eriksson for 4-to-6 weeks because of knee sprains.
Improving on the power play is also a priority for the Canucks, who have struggled with the man-advantage to open the year at 4-for-31. The power play has been an issue for the Canucks in each of the past two seasons as well, finishing with the second-worst unit last season and the fourth-worst in 2015-16.
The Canucks could be without defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Friday morning after regarding his hit from behind on Boston Bruins center Frank Vatrano on Thursday. Gudbranson was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct on the play.