Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres will have a more difficult task breaking their three-game losing streak on Thursday against Jack Eichel and the Vegas Golden Knights.
The team had a great chance on Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes, but laid an egg and lost, 4-1.
Eichel is playing the way you'd expect a star player to play. He has six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 14 games this season. The 26-year-old has points in six-straight games to help lead the Golden Knights to the best record in the National Hockey League.
Sabres head coach Don Granato knows what Vegas has done this season, but he’s more worried about what his team will do, and not about a trade made a little over a year ago.
“It’s 82 games for us. This is one of 82, although you do recognize there was a big trade made between the two teams. That’s something for the fans and the media, because those are great stories, but we have to play hockey," said Granato following Thursday's morning skate. "It’s just another game, and if we don’t take care of it like we didn’t take care of it the other night, your outcome is not going to be favorable.
“The other night was disappointing on many fronts, so my message to them was what was their interpretation, what do I think their natural response is, and where might I need to pick up from that? ... I don’t think there’s anybody in that locker room that didn’t look in the mirror or needed me to go after them harder than normal.”
One of the biggest reasons the Sabres lost to the Coyotes was they spent most of the night on the perimeter. You might find it strange, but Granato doesn’t stress going to the net.
“When we’re not playing the way we need to play, you don’t get to the net. When you play the way you need to play, you do get to the net," Granato said. "You play an aggressive style, you get to the net, and you don’t even know you’re to the net. So should we focus on getting to the net, or should we focus on playing aggressive?”
The Sabres don’t care who they’re playing, but they do care about when the building is electric, like it will be on Thursday because of Eichel.
“When there’s more energy in the building, absolutely you feel that, and it’s awesome," Granato said.
Alex Tuch played against his former team last March when Vegas came to town. The Sabres won that game, 3-1, and Tuch scored the empty netter to put the game away. He says things are different in Buffalo than in Vegas.
“It’s been a little more opportunity here for me, and a little bit of a different look than I had in Vegas," said Tuch after Thursday's morning skate. "I loved my time in Vegas. I loved being a Golden Knight, but now being a Sabre means the world to me.”
Another piece in the trade was Peyton Krebs. It only took Krebs less than eight minutes to score against his old team. He still enjoys playing against them.
“I think anytime you get to do that, it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” said Krebs on Thursday.
Krebs is back playing at center, and is going to stay there in the near future. The 21-year-old has played both in Buffalo and in Rochester since the trade, and he thinks his growth hasn’t been on the ice.
“On the ice, I’m just trying to get better every day. But I think off the ice is where I’ve definitely grown," Krebs said. "Mentally, I think I’m in a better place than I was last year. Just every day coming to the rink with a smile on my face, that’s exciting for me.
“I think my game has come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.”
Krebs hasn’t scored this year, and only has two assists in 11 games.
Vinnie Hinostroza assisted on Krebs' goal against Vegas last season, and he’s back into the lineup after spending five games as the healthy scratch.
Jack Quinn and Casey Fitzgerald will sit out on Thursday night.
One positive for the Sabres has been the power play, which has scored in seven-consecutive games and 10 out of 11 contests.
Eric Comrie gets his fifth start in six games for the Sabres. He’s 4-5-0 this season with a 3.34 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage. Comrie has been average this season, and that needs to be better if the Sabres are to be better this year.
Not only is Vegas 11-2-0 overall to start the season, they’re 7-1-0 on the road and have won eight-straight games overall.
Sure, Vegas can score goals, as they’re sixth in the league at 3.57 goals per-game, but what’s shocking is they lead the league in goals-against average with their No. 1 goalie, Robin Lehner, out for the season.
Thursday’s starter, Logan Thompson, has slipped recently, giving up seven goals in his last two starts. However, he’s 7-2-0 overall this season with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
His backup, Adin Hill, is 5-0-0 this season with a 2.17 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
Join Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 6 p.m. EST when you’ll hear from Granato, Tuch and Krebs.