Even though they are in different conferences, the parallels between the Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres are obvious.
As the teams prepare to meet Saturday afternoon at Buffalo, both squads are winless in their past two games and just outside a wild-card playoff spot.
Most importantly, both teams are in dire need of a victory.
One big difference is the Sabres are something of a surprise squad, having taken a leap forward with a young roster. The Flames, on the other hand, were the Pacific Division champions last season and have fallen well short of expectations to this point in the campaign.
Calgary’s 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday was yet another example of a squad that is falling short in close games, despite often outshooting its opposition.
The Flames outshot the Red Wings 36-17 (29-7 during five-on-five play) but watched a 1-0 lead late in the second period turn into a disappointing defeat.
“We’ve just got to find ways to score,” said Flames forward Blake Coleman, who scored his team’s lone goal in Detroit. “We’re really struggling to create offense right now and you’ve got to find ways to score ugly and have guys that are willing to pay the price to get to the front of the net.”
Calgary has a 12-9-10 record in one-goal games and will remain out of the playoffs without turning around those fortunes in a hurry.
“We were tied and up in the third (period) last game and that’s what … it’s going to be down the stretch,” Flames defenseman Chris Tanev said, referring to his team’s 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. “We’ve got to find a way to win those games.”
The Sabres are back in action for the first time since the break, with their most recent game a 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 1.
That’s not to say they haven’t made news. The club announced on Thursday that forward Dylan Cozens had signed a seven-year, $49.7 million contract extension, which keeps him in the fold on a long-term basis as another key part of their rebuild.
The Sabres have missed the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons and ending that run will be no easy feat, but it appears much better days are ahead.
“This is place I love to be,” Cozens said. “I love the people here. I love the community, how everyone comes together in adversity, and we’ve seen that lots this year. It’s just a city that I really want to win in and I believe that we will win in.”
Cozens, the seventh-overall pick in the 2019 draft, has collected 17 goals and 43 points in 49 games amid a breakout season.
“At the end of the day, he is ultra competitive and he loves the game,” general manager Kevyn Adams said of Cozens. “If you can get those type of people in your locker room, it makes everyone around them better as well.”
The Sabres had some more good news on Friday. Forward Tage Thompson, who leads them in both goals (34) and points (68), is expected back in the lineup against the Flames.
Thompson, who was injured in the Carolina game and missed the All-Star Game, was a full practice participant and cleared for a return.
–Field Level Media