Buffalo Sabres searching for answers after poor start

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 06: Jack Eichel
NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 06: Jack Eichel /

Phil Housley shuffles the lines, as he looks for ways to get the Buffalo Sabres on track after starting the season with no wins through three games.

After just three games, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Of course, it’s still extremely early in the season, but no one envisioned this kind of start.

Things began well enough, as the Sabres earned a point in their home opener and probably deserved the win. However, since then, it has all been downhill.

The respective scorelines of 6-3 and 6-2 against the Islanders and Devils are bad enough. Even worse, have been the performances, which even the players themselves admit have been lacking in effort.

We’re sorry, but a lack of effort so early in the season is no excuse whatsoever. And no longer can the squad blame it on not being motivated enough to play for their coach – Dan Bylsma is no longer around.

With this in mind, what can the Buffalo Sabres do, to get the season on track? That’s the question facing Bylsma’s replacements, Phil Housley.

The Sabres’ new coach has at least one idea, which he put into play during practice on Wednesday morning. As reported by Amy Moritz of The Buffalo News, Housley said:

"“I think you change the lines to try and get other guys going or maybe there’s some chemistry that you’re looking for. And that’s why we made that change today. They could change tomorrow, but we’ll try these combinations moving forward.”"

The new combinations including playing Jack Eichel between Zemgus Girgensons and Jason Pominville, while Evander Kane joined Kyle Okposo and Ryan O’Reilly. If nothing else, the new lines certainly sound enticing.

However, perhaps the most interesting decision of all, was to move Sam Reinhart back to the wing. Playing at center for the first three games, he had no points, just one shot at goal and — for what it’s worth — a plus/minus rating of -6.

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We know Reinhart has had some success previously, when playing as a winger for the Buffalo Sabres, but that was while lining up alongside Eichel. On Wednesday, he was playing on the third line with Benoit Pouliot and Johan Larsson, who took over his place at center.

As far as the 2014 second overall draft pick is concerned, he will do whatever it takes, to help the team. Regardless of his position, he has vowed to work hard and try his best.

But what will it take for Reinhart to perform better? As reported by Moritz, he said:

"“Just relax, have fun. There’s so many things going on. I know I’m not the only one when I say I’m fighting the puck a little bit. Just got to relax down low and find my game. … I think I’ve got to make my mind up quicker. Once I’m on the puck I’ve got to move my feet a little quicker and open up the ice a little bit.”"

This is a big season for Reinhart, after the Sabres decided against offering him a contract extension during the offseason. With one year remaining on his current deal, the organization was essentially telling the 21-year-old he still needs to prove himself.

Talking of proving yourself, the same can be said for the Buffalo Sabres as a whole, after flying out following practice, to begin a four-game road trip on the West Coast. Even this early on, this arguably represents a defining moment in the season, as they look to convince people they can be genuine playoff contenders.

Next: Brian Gionta returns - sort of

What’s your take on the poor start to the season? What will it take, to get the Buffalo Sabres on track? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.