The Buffalo Sabres struggled for offense as they split their two games over the weekend, but none of those struggles can be placed at the skates of captain Jack Eichel.
After scoring all five of his team’s goals on Saturday and Sunday, Eichel will lead the Sabres as they host Minnesota on Tuesday in the Wild’s sole visit to western New York this season.
The Sabres recorded a 4-2 home win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, and the talk of the game was clearly the 23-year-old Eichel’s first career four-goal outing.
After scoring twice in the second period as Buffalo led Ottawa 2-1, the Massachusetts native zipped in a wrister for his second career hat trick — and first since Dec. 15, 2017 — before adding an empty-netter with 14 seconds to play.
More important than Eichel’s individual accomplishment, however, is what Saturday night’s win ended.
The victory over the Senators, who are tied with Detroit with an Eastern Conference-low 17 points, snapped Buffalo’s six-game losing streak.
The Sabres went 0-4-2 after recording a 2-0 win in Detroit over the Red Wings on Oct. 25 and are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.
“We definitely, with the injuries, needed our best players to step up,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told reporters after the win over Ottawa. “Jack showed a world-class performance today and just excellent leadership that I also told you he’s been showing in the adversity of the last few weeks.”
Buffalo lost 4-1 in Chicago on Sunday night with Eichel scoring the only goal, but the club played without winger Kyle Okposo of St. Paul, who was rocked by Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey the night before and sustained a concussion.
The former Gopher Okposo joined a growing list of injured Sabres forwards — centers Tage Thompson, Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson, plus winger Vladimir Sobotka.
Thompson left Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury after being checked against the boards by Blackhawks defenseman Olli Maatta. The club announced Monday that Thompson will miss three to five weeks.
On the bright side, the Sabres are calling Zach Bogosian day-to-day as he appears close to making his season debut after undergoing his second hip surgery in as many years in April.
As for Minnesota — which has a league-low 16 points — the Wild rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a pair of second-period goals to force overtime against Carolina in a Saturday home matinee.
However, Hurricanes standout right winger Andrei Svechnikov ripped home the game-winning goal 93 seconds into overtime, though the Wild extended their home point streak to six games (4-0-2).
Minnesota has won consecutive contests just once in its 20 games, beating Montreal and Edmonton at home in late October.
“It’s a work in progress until we find a way to win a game or two, and then it’s amazing how the confidence builds positively rather than negatively,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.
Minnesota plays four of its next five games on the road but returns to the Twin Cities to face the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday in the teams’ second meeting.
In his last seven games, left winger Kevin Fiala has registered four goals and two assists while Zach Parise has three goals and three assists over the same period, including a short-handed marker against the Hurricanes.
Parise, 35, recorded his 100th power-play point as a member of the Wild in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Arizona.
He became the sixth player and first Minnesota-born player to reach the milestone in franchise history.
–Field Level Media
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(photo courtesy of Wild.com)