Sabres attempt to break early-season rut, travel to face Senators

Two teams looking to get back on track go head-to-head when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

The Sabres arrive in Ottawa after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, their fourth loss in six games to start the season.

“It’s frustrating, but I think as soon as you let frustration set in, negativity, you’re never going to get out of it,” Buffalo center Tage Thompson said. “I think goals come in waves. … You’ve just got to do the right things every shift. I thought (Monday) we did. Obviously, that’s why that one hurts so much.”

Buffalo has pumped a combined 80 shots on goal in its past two games — 37 against Montreal and 43 in a 3-1 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

The offense, which finished third in the NHL last season with 293 goals, hasn’t found its groove yet. The Sabres have scored 13 goals this season, with nine coming across three games.

A slow start by last season’s dominant line of Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch prompted coach Don Granato to switch things up late last week, putting Thompson between Dylan Cozens and Jordan Greenway while center Casey Mittelstadt slotted in with Skinner and Tuch.

The change has worked for Skinner, who has scored in consecutive games and leads the team with three goals, and Thompson, who has 15 shots on goal over the past two games.

It’s been a different story for Tuch, who remains without a goal and has just one assist.

“We need to get him going more than he is to this point, let’s just say that,” Granato said. “We’ll spend a little more time with Tuch and try to get him going in the right direction. He’s a big asset and I don’t think he’s found his game yet.”

Ottawa, meanwhile, is coming off a 5-2 setback against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, seeing a three-game winning streak end in the process.

The Senators know the importance of not letting the loss turn into something more after dropping 10 of 13 games following a 4-2 start to the 2022-23 campaign.

“Momentum is obviously big, but you can’t ride the highs or lows,” Ottawa defenseman Jakob Chychrun said. “People say it every year, but it’s really true. You can be hard on yourself when you lose one game, but you have to have a short memory. You play so many games, each one is a new opportunity.”

The Senators’ offense has been clicking to start the season, with 21 goals through five games. Saturday’s loss marked the first game in which they were held to two goals or fewer.

Ottawa has four players tied for the team lead with six points, including captain Brady Tkachuk, who has a team-high four goals. Tkachuk has points in three of Ottawa’s five games thus far, headlined by a pair of multi-point efforts.

Senators defenseman Artem Zub will miss a second straight game with an upper-body injury. Thomas Chabot missed practice on Monday for a maintenance day but is expected to play despite not being 100 percent.

Prior to the game, Ottawa will honor long-time goalie Craig Anderson, who will sign a one-day contract with the team to officially retire a Senator. Anderson, who spent his final two seasons with the Sabres, played his last NHL game on April 13, earning an overtime win against the Senators.

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