Sabres search for answer to home struggles vs. Blues

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres finished January with their best stretch of the season, a three-game win streak in western Canada. Since then, however, they've returned to their losing ways on home ice.

The Sabres (14-28-9) are coming off back-to-back home losses upon returning to Buffalo and will look to turn that trend around Saturday against St. Louis.

"It's so frustrating when you don't win at home," winger Kyle Okposo said, according to the team's website. "We've got to pick our game up."

In Thursday's loss to the Florida Panthers, the Sabres quickly fell behind the eight-ball with four penalties in the first period. That helped set the tone of what became a disappointing 4-2 defeat.

"We can't start the game taking four penalties," Sabres coach Phil Housley said, according to the team's website. "Everything was going in the right direction (and) we take a penalty. I understand we're going to have to kill penalties, but we shoot a puck over the glass five-on-three and we lose a draw. Now we're chasing the game again.

"We definitely had enough chances after the first period. I thought we had them on the ropes a couple of times. Unfortunately, we were missing the net, trying to be too fine."

Ryan O'Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons scored for Buffalo against Florida.

The Sabres have slowed down on offense after a burst in their trip through western Canada. Last week, the Sabres picked up a 4-0 win over Vancouver and a 5-0 win over Edmonton -- but those performances seem to be the exceptions to the rule considering the all-around struggles this season.

Chad Johnson got the start for Buffalo against Florida, so starter Robin Lehner will likely return between the pipes against St. Louis. Lehner has a save percentage of .912 in 38 games played this season.

The Blues (31-19-3) are coming off a 3-1 road loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Before that, the Blues picked up three straight wins at home in commanding fashion over Ottawa, Colorado and Montreal. St. Louis had a productive month of January with seven wins in 11 games (7-3-1).

Coach Mike Yeo recently had his one-year anniversary as Blues coach. Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, 2017, and the Blues have prospered under his watch with one of the better records in the league since taking over.

"This is such an awesome organization to be part of and it's a great group to coach," Yeo said, according to the team's website. "I feel very privileged. It doesn't matter if it's the day after a loss or a day after a win, I just love coming to the rink and having the opportunity to coach the St. Louis Blues. I'm excited about what's coming up here."

Brayden Schenn leads the Blues in points with 51 (21 goals, 30 assists) in 53 games. Vladimir Tarasenko has 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 53 games.

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