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A close friend of mine who is a huge hockey fan attended the Buffalo Sabres’ 4-1 loss to Columbus last week and afterwards declared it “unwatchable.”

TV viewers are increasingly coming to the same conclusion.

The return of ex-Sabre Jason Pominville to First Niagara Center on Monday, a game which Buffalo lost to Minnesota, 2-1, stopped the trend of declining ratings.

The game had a 6.0 rating on a busy sports night on cable. San Diego defeated Indianapolis on Monday Night Football (8.2) and Los Angeles defeated St. Louis (2.3) in the National League Championsip Series.

Before Pominville’s return, TV viewership had slipped more than 50 percent from the 9.8 rating for the season opener against Detroit to a 4.8 for the Sabres game Saturday against Patrick Kane and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The game against Tampa had a 7.7 rating and the Columbus game had a 6.1 rating.

As bad as the fall has been, some perspective is in order.

The Sabres ratings are down sharply but they are still higher than many prime time broadcast networks get these days.

But the loss of more than 30-50 percent from the season opener is a clear indication that the NHL team is losing its fan base.

In other local ratings, the Buffalo Bills’ 27-24 loss to Cincinnati Sunday was the highest-rated program of the week, as usual.

The game averaged a 32.1 rating and hit a high of 40.0 in the last 30 minutes.

The ratings for the American League Championship Series on WUTV call into question how big a baseball market the area really is now.

Detroit’s win over Boston on Saturday had a 3.0 rating opposite the Sabres game and Boston’s comeback win over Detroit on Sunday had a 4.9 rating.