Sabres-Blackhawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 12, 2013
The Buffalo Sabres are off to their worst start in 14 years. Facing the reigning Stanley Cup champions on the road isn't likely to change that. The Sabres attempt to avoid a sixth straight defeat Saturday night when they meet the Chicago Blackhawks. Buffalo (0-4-1) hasn't endured a worst start to a season since going 0-5-2 to begin 1999-2000. The Sabres have shown few signs of ending their struggles, getting outscored 14-5 while going 2 for 18 on the power play. "We have guys in here that can make plays," goaltender Ryan Miller said. "We just have to get past this little hump we're having trouble with and you can't just work hard, get a puck and not do anything with it. We have to start doing things with it." Buffalo didn't do much Thursday, giving up three first-period goals in a 4-1 home loss to Columbus. Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson have been among the few offensive bright spots with four points each over the past three games. Those two have combined for eight of the team's 13 points this season. Vanek, the captain for home games, had team highs of 20 goals and 41 points in 38 games last season. He's been limited to two assists in four career visits to Chicago. Hodgson has four points in four meetings with the Blackhawks, who have won three straight games versus Buffalo, including the last two at the United Center. Chicago is 19-2-3 over its last 24 home games, including an 11-2 mark in the playoffs en route to winning last season's Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks improved to 2-0-1 on home ice with a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday. "We didn't get that extra goal, which made it close all the way to the end, but I still thought we did some good things," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But I liked what we gave up, and that wasn't much." Chicago yielded only 19 shots to the Islanders, two days after giving up a season-high 34 in a 3-2 defeat at St. Louis. Corey Crawford, who made 31 saves in that contest, should be back in net after watching backup Nikolai Khabibulin make 17 stops Friday. Crawford is 1-1-1 with a 2.93 goals-against average, and has won both of his meetings with the Sabres while stopping 57 of 62 shots. Jonathan Toews has two goals and one assist in the past two games after finding the net Friday. The captain has four points in three career home meetings with Buffalo, scoring twice in the most recent meeting, a 6-2 victory Jan. 18, 2012. The Sabres are without Patrick Kaleta, who is suspended until attending a hearing with the NHL department of player safety Tuesday. He's facing a suspension of more than five games for his hit on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson early in the opening period Thursday. Kaleta wasn't penalized, and Johnson remained in the game. "The league's going to take care of that. It was a hit and they're concerned with it so they'll take a look at it and go from there," Sabres coach Ron Rolston told the team's official website. "So he will have a hearing and see what comes of it."
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