NHL

The Sabers skid reaches seven when goaltender Eric Comrie is injured in the loss to the Senators

The Sabers skid reaches seven when goaltender Eric Comrie is injured in the loss to the Senators

The Sabers skid reaches seven when goaltender Eric Comrie is injured in the loss to the Senators

OTTAWA – Another loss, and now an injured goaltender. The hits keep rolling for another November collapse for the Buffalo Sabres.

That 7-3 start has been blown overnight in just two weeks. The Sabers are 7-10 as their losing streak hit seven games Wednesday night with a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators in a game marred by the second-period departure of starting goaltender Buffalo, Eric Comrie.

On a night when defense seemed optional, the Sabers were blown out by the scrappy Vancouver Canucks, 5-4, in front of an announced crowd of 11,130 at KeyBank Center.

Comrie appeared to injure his left knee with 10:17 left in the period when he collided with Senators forward Mathieu Joseph, who was shoved into the goalie by Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Comrie initially stayed in the game and gave up Brady Tkachuk’s game-tying goal 14 seconds later on a rebound off the backboards that put Ottawa ahead for good 2-1.

Comrie, who has started 11 of Buffalo’s 17 games after signing a two-year, $3.6 million free agent contract in July, played just over three more minutes before skating to the bench during the next TV timeout, talking to coaches and marching.

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“He’s going to be out a little bit, but obviously we’re going to have to look at him more,” manager Don Granato said.

“That was my fault. I apologized to him,” Dahlin said of Comrie. “(Joseph) got really close to the net and I tried to stop him and ran him into Eric. So I owe (Comrie) one.”

The Sabers are expected to call up Rochester goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (6-3, 3.07/.898) to replace Comrie, who was traded to veteran Craig Anderson on Wednesday. Comrie stopped 22 of 24 shots, and Anderson stopped 14 of 15. Anderson was honored with a first-period video presentation and a standing ovation from the 13,558 crowd at the generously announced Canadian Tire Center in his first game in Ottawa since leaving for Washington in 2020.

The outlook for the Sabres’ injury-ravaged defense improved considerably Tuesday morning ahead of the game against the Vancouver Canucks at KeyBank Center.

“Credit to him, he tried to play and fight,” Anderson said of Comrie. “Unfortunately, the way it’s going. Hopefully, it’s not too long of a timeline. He was playing a great game that kept us there.”

It was the second straight night the Sabers played a team ranked 30th overall in the NHL, and the Sens fell into that spot after Vancouver escaped with a 5-0 win on Tuesday -4 over Buffalo at KeyBank Center. The Sabers are headed in that direction after losing both games. Ottawa (6-9-1) fell one point behind Buffalo in its bid to escape the Atlantic Division cellar.

“We’re in a different area for us,” Granato admitted before the game. “I think there’s a greater expectation, externally and internally. And we have to learn to manage that.”

“We have to dig deep because there’s no magic stick that’s going to lift it up,” Anderson said. “It’s going to come from within. We’re going to have to dig in and look in the mirror and say, ‘Where can we, individually and as a group, help the team win, get back on track?’ “

Determined to build on a 38-goal season, Thompson has made complacency his worst enemy during the 82-game schedule. He stays on the ice after practice to hone the nuances of his job as the Sabres’ most trusted center and wants to produce more than he did in his first season playing the position in the NHL.

Granato almost got exactly the start he wanted when Jeff Skinner used a nifty spin move to get alone on Sens goaltender Anton Forsberg, but his quick snap from the edge rang off the crossbar and divert only 25 seconds into the match. Later, JJ Peterka hit a post and was also stopped by Ottawa goaltender Anton Forsberg on a 2-on-0 count. Dylan Cozens also failed to convert a breakaway. It was that kind of night.

Ottawa opened the scoring at 9:45 of the first on Austin Watson’s snap shot past Comrie, his first goal of the year. Tage Thompson’s power-play goal, his 12th of the season, got Buffalo tied at 6:41 of the second, but Tkachuk’s goal on an Ottawa power play put the Senators back in front, and Alex DeBrincat beat Anderson to give Ottawa some air. with 5:39 remaining. Tim Stutzle hit the empty net with 40 seconds left.

“The challenge in the last three games of this little bit has been a little bit more attention, anxiety. Psychological components,” Granato said. “Maybe that’s why you don’t score as well, or you squeeze a stick a little more. And that’s something, unfortunately, we have to grow.”

Here are more observations about the game:

The Golden Knights (13-2) extended their winning streak to nine games with a 7-4 victory over the Sabres. The Sabers (7-7) have lost four straight after collapsing defensively in the third period against Las Vegas.

In a stretch of eight games from October 27 to November. In 10, the Sabers scored at least one power play goal in every game and were converting at a 35.4 percent clip. But teams with the man advantage have hit a brick wall lately, going 1-for-14 in the last three games. Things fell apart Tuesday when Buffalo went 0-for-4 in the first period and finished the game 1-for-8 with just six shots on goal.

Zone tackles on the Ottawa line and offensive zone matchups were two of the main issues the Sabers struggled to overcome. The Sabers were just 4-for-13 in the circle on the power play in the game.

“We’re taking too much of the stick,” Dahlin said. “We have our chances, but we can’t really execute right now. We need more swagger in our game. We just have to get back to work.”

Added Granato: “A good drive there tonight or a good performance there tonight would have been the difference.”

That was the chant from the Ottawa crowd during the video tribute to Anderson, who played for the Senators from 2010-2020 and won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2017, the year Ottawa placed within a Stanley Cup Final goal.

“I just tried not to get emotional,” Anderson said. “I spent a lot of time here. Seeing some of the memories was nice to see again. It’s in the past. I definitely enjoyed it. It was a big part of my life, a big time in my life. And so I’m grateful for that. It was great to relive the moment and be remembered.”

The Sabers gave winger Anders Bjork his NHL debut to inject more speed into the lineup after Riley Sheahan made his 2022-23 debut against Vancouver. Bjork played on the fourth line with Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Asplund slid into Sheahan’s slot at center.

Girgensons, however, did not finish the game after taking a high hit late in the second period. Granato did not have an update on his condition. The rest of the lineup is unchanged. Captain Kyle Okposo (lower body) was officially placed on injured reserve to make room for Henri Jokiharju’s return against Vancouver.

The Buffalo Sabers took a 1-0 lead early in the first period but couldn’t capitalize as the Boston Bruins tied the score in the second period, then scored twice in the third period for a 3-game win -1.

The Sabers are scheduled to be off Thursday and then practice Friday morning at KeyBank Center before Saturday night’s game in Toronto. Of course, like anything west of New York in the next 48-72 hours, it will all depend on the weather. Stay tuned.





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