Wed, 01 Feb 2023

Blue Jackets aim to slow Sabres' offensive surge

Field Level Media
07 Dec 2022, 18:40 GMT+10

The offense-minded Buffalo Sabres hope to continue their scoring surge when they visit the retooling Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday.

The Sabres are 4-2-1 over their past seven games, including a 6-3 victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks in their latest action on Sunday.

With 21-year-old Dylan Cozens leading the way, the Sabres have scored at least four goals in six of their past seven games.

In four games last week, Cozens led the team with nine points, including back-to-back three-point efforts on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche and Sunday against the Sharks.

Cozens became the fourth Sabres skater aged 21 or younger to record three or more points in consecutive games.

Cozens was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday after tallying four goals and nine points in four games. His point total for the week was behind only those of Edmonton Oilers stars Connor McDavid (11 points) and Leon Draisaitl (10).

Sabres coach Don Granato praised the way Cozens competes.

"Just couple that with love of the game that he has, the love of the game hockey," Granato said. "He competes for the right reason being in a team sport. He brings guys in with him, he drags people into the fight, per se, which is a real indicator of his leadership and leadership ability going forward."

Next Cozens will go up against the rebuilding Blue Jackets, who had two players make their debuts in the 4-1 road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Forward Kirill Marchenko, who had eight goals and 11 assists in 16 games with AHL Cleveland, and defenseman Tim Berni played their first games in the NHL.

Marchenko and Berni became the 33rd and 34th players to play for the Blue Jackets this year in just the team's 24th game. The Jackets used only 36 players all of last season.

The Blue Jackets are looking for some momentum, as they are 1-4-1 in the past six games.

Johnny Gaudreau matched Boone Jenner for the Columbus lead in goals with his ninth of the season just one minute into the Tuesday game. Gaudreau has four multi-point games in the past seven contests, logging three goals and nine assists in that span.

Columbus jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Tuesday but couldn't build on it as it went 0-for-5 on the power play. Pittsburgh scored three goals in the second period to take control.

"I thought we had a gritty first period. They just outworked us and out-hit us," Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger said. "Special teams are big. Got a couple of looks. We get a power-play goal and maybe it's a different game. That seems to be the story. We just have to play a full 60 minutes and be consistent."

Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins returned to action after missing eight games with a lower-body injury, and he made 30 saves in the loss.

"The start was hard. I had to start feeling the puck," Merlikins said. "A little shaky. Calmed myself down. Practice is one thing, everyone is flying. Just had to get back on track."

Center Sean Kuraly, a Columbus-area native, is set to play in his 100th game with the Blue Jackets. He began his career by appearing 270 times with the Boston Bruins.

"We played a good first period," Kuraly said of the loss at Pittsburgh. "We got a lot of chances. Against good teams, one good period doesn't mean (anything). You've got to play 60 minutes in this league."

The Blue Jackets are 1-4-1 in their past six home contests. The Sabres have won their past two road games after losing five straight away from Buffalo.

--Field Level Media

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