Sabres try for first win of season vs. Ducks
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Sunday night marks the chance to chart a new course for the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres, who meet for the first of two times this season.
Anaheim (2-2-1) is battling injuries to key players and Buffalo (0-4-1) is winless to start the year. Its point came from a shootout loss to Montreal to open the season.
The Ducks hobble into the game with question marks surrounding the health of team captain Ryan Getzlaf. He has played only two games and was a late scratch with a lower-body injury against Colorado on Friday.
When healthy, he plays heavy minutes -- more than 22 in each of his two games this season. He recorded two assists as the Ducks held on to beat the Islanders 3-2 on Wednesday.
The Sabres lost 4-2 at Los Angeles on Saturday, allowing a power-play goal with two minutes left and an empty-netter with 13 seconds to play. Buffalo coach coach Phil Housley tried to keep his team encouraged after the loss.
"I can't fault our guys for their effort. Five-on-five, we were the better hockey team," Housley said. "Right now, we're just finding ways to lose. We've got to turn the corner and find some ways to win."
The Sabres should play tight defense under Housley, a Hall of Fame defender who played the first eight seasons of his 21-year career with the team. Buffalo, though, has allowed 22 goals this season, tied for the second-most in the league. Against the Kings, they swallowed up pucks in the defensive zone early but lost a step as the second period went on.
Housley acknowledged the letdown.
"Everything we did well in the first period, we started to get away from in the second," Housley said. "We started to get it back in the third. We had the majority of the play, but again, it just comes down to special teams."
The Kings scored three power-play goals.
The Ducks' typically aggressive offensive style is slowed because of injuries to speedy defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen as well as centers Ryan Kesler and Getzlaf. In the absence of these catalysts, Anaheim has scored only 11 goals in their first five games.
Ducks center Andrew Cogliano, though, is off to a fast start with four goals and six points.
Anaheim may also be facing an injury in their goaltending ranks. John Gibson suffered an injury on a high shot during warmups Friday, and failed to reappear for the second period after stopping 17 shots in the first. Reto Berra, signed for depth as a free agent in July, took over with regular backup Ryan Miller (upper-body) on injured reserve.
Berra performed admirably, stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced.
"So far, I've done a couple of backup games, so I kind of know that when I jump in, I have to be ready," Berra said. "We were in the intermission, so I had time to get ready physically and mentally."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle talked about the effort in Friday's 3-1 loss at Colorado.
"We couldn't muster much offense," Carlyle said. "We did a lot of chasing of the game. They had more legs than we did. They were a faster hockey club than we were."
The Ducks committed eight minors against the Avalanche, allowing two power-play goals. The Avalanche took two penalties. Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour scored a short-handed goal for his first tally of the season.
Evander Kane (four goals, seven points), Jason Pominville (four goals, six points) and Jack Eichel (two goals, seven points) lead the Sabres in scoring. They have to be aggressive against the Ducks, a point Eichel recognizes.
"Some little errors ... If we clean up, we'll be able to generate more offense," Eichel said. "We've been spending a lot of time in their end. There are so many highs and lows in a 60-minute game, we just have to stay a little more even-keel when the other team pushes."
The Sabres are facing their first of 16 sets of back-to-back games. Last season, they were 8-8-3 in the first such game and 6-12-1 in the second.
Buffalo must shake off fatigue Sunday and rally its offense to seize the advantage early. The Ducks need to use the speed of Cogliano and Rickard Rakell, who has two goals and two assists, and stay out of the penalty box.
Updated October 15, 2017