The Buffalo Sabres look to snap a four-game losing streak on Friday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens, who have won just once in 10 road games this season (1-8-1).
Buffalo sports a 5-5-1 record at home, including a season-opening 5-1 victory over Montreal. But the Sabres have been leaking goals since starting netminder Craig Anderson went down with an upper-body injury following a 5-3 loss at San Jose on Nov. 2.
Buffalo is just 2-7-1 in 10 games since Anderson was injured. The Sabres have allowed at least five goals in five of their last six contests, including a 5-1 home loss to Boston on Wednesday.
Kyle Okposo scored the opening goal in that contest before Boston responded with five unanswered tallies, including four in less than six minutes late in the first period.
Aaron Dell, who has a 4.56 goals-against average and .862 save percentage in five appearances (three starts) this season, was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots.
Dustin Tokarski, pulled early in his previous two starts after allowing nine goals on 35 shots, stopped 24 of 25 shots over the final two periods on Wednesday.
Anderson was 4-2-0 with a .921 save percentage before his injury.
“Never have I been comfortable as a coach trying to say it’s a goaltending thing,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “Even if, at times, you thought maybe that could have been a save, you still look at the things that led to that and work to improve those. If that’s the case and it’s a goal we didn’t like, there are other things we can turn our attention to that are within our control to become better at.”
Granato said prior to Wednesday’s loss to the Bruins that he planned to give Tokarski the night off to think and get back to his game. He later had to backtrack after the poor first period.
“We needed a change,” Granato said. “That just needed to happen. Dustin came in and did good, really good. He looked good, comfortable.”
Granato said he believed his squad will improve from its current rough stretch.
“This little stretch here is exposing us to things we need to target and become better at, and we will,” he said. “We will become better going through this.”
Montreal resides is seventh place in the Atlantic Division behind the sixth-place Sabres despite making the Stanley Cup Final last season.
The Canadiens come in off a 6-3 loss at Washington on Wednesday after captain Alex Ovechkin recorded three assists. Jake Evans and Artturi Lehkonen each had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens.
Montreal had defeated Nashville, 6-3, last Saturday before departing on its three-game road trip that ends this Saturday at Pittsburgh. The Canadiens have yet to win consecutive games this season.
“It’s clear were not the same team the second game,” Evans said. “We let off the gas a little bit. Now we’re playing some good teams and they make you pay pretty quickly.
“We’re all feeling pretty bad about our games and we’re all feeling bad about how this season has started off for us. It’s time to turn the corner.”