The Buffalo Sabres are supposed to lose now. That’s the point of trading key guys and starting a rebuild. The more they lose, the better their draft position, the better the prospect they get.
That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.
“That’s what people think,” defenseman Andrej Sekera said Saturday. “We think differently.”
That has become obvious. The Sabres have won two straight games since they began shipping out veterans. They’re eager to make it three in a row tonight when they host New Jersey.
“Our main focus is still to win,” forward Nathan Gerbe said in First Niagara Center. “Obviously, we’re not cashing in this season. We’re within reach of playoffs. We know that as a group, and we have guys here that can get it done.
“The organization itself wants to turn around. It doesn’t mean we can’t win. It doesn’t mean they don’t want us to win. Teams aren’t going to take us lightly because we’re turning things around. We’ve still got guys in here that want to win and obviously make playoffs.”
The postseason remains a long shot, but the Sabres are far from eliminated. They are in 12th place, six points behind the eighth-place New York Islanders with one fewer game played.
The Isles were on pace for 51 points. At that rate, the Sabres would need to earn 16 of a possible 20 points in their final 10 games to pass them.
“No one in here is going to quit and not keep driving to the playoffs until you’re mathematically out,” forward Luke Adam said. “There’s no quit in this locker room.”
Instead, what the Sabres have in their dressing room is a bunch of players making the most of new opportunities.
The Sabres traded captain Jason Pominville and defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr heading into Wednesday’s trade deadline. Their departures opened top-line and first-pair minutes for players.
During the Sabres’ last two wins, exactly half of the offense was supplied by players who weren’t in Buffalo at the start of the season. Forwards Kevin Porter, Brian Flynn and Adam joined defensemen Adam Pardy and Mark Pysyk in recording four goals and seven assists to key victories over Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
“Once we made the trades, it opened up opportunities,” interim coach Ron Rolston said. “That’s what we have to be as a team. Everyone’s going to have to chip in one way or the other. They’re also guys that are going to have to make big defensive plays. We need complete players right now, and we need players that can chip in. We saw that.”
The victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday was perhaps the Sabres’ most complete game. They overcame a shaky second period Friday to beat Ottawa. They scored three times in the third after the Senators took a 2-1 lead.
“Everybody knows what we need to do, and we’re trying,” Sekera said. “We just have to do it with the guys we have now, and I guess so far it’s working.”
It is indeed – except for the folks who assumed the club would nose-dive toward last place and the top overall draft pick.
“I don’t see it that way,” Gerbe said. “Those people are obviously negative. I like to see the positive side of things.
“It’s a big game for this group just to keep the momentum going. In the past in the season, we would lose this game. Now we’ve got to win it.”