East-leading Sabres host surging Sharks

Sharks

First-year Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger is pleased with the start of his Sabres on the ice, especially after a successful West Coast road trip.

Buffalo returns home Tuesday to face the San Jose Sharks, concluding the first-ever home-and-home series between the teams in an odd, three-day journey that began in northern California and will end in western New York.

The Sabres left California after taking four of six points, opening with a 5-2 loss in Anaheim then beating Los Angeles (3-0) and San Jose (4-3).

Krueger, 60, replaced former Buffalo bench boss Phil Housley, who was fired after two seasons. Krueger returned to the NHL after last coaching in the league in 2013.

In addition to the Sabres’ hot start — they lead the Eastern Conference with 15 points — the new coach said he likes the comradery off the ice, too.

“We speak about being connected on the ice, but you could really feel this group was connected off the ice,” Krueger said after the road trip. “Just coming together here the last couple of days, lots of time together but nothing but a small picture in our heads and a hunger to continue to learn.

“That’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

Three different lines contributed to Buffalo’s 4-3 win in San Jose on Saturday, but it was the group consisting of Kyle Okposo, Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons that provided the winning marker.

Goalie Carter Hutton set a franchise record Thursday with a 47-save shutout of the Kings. The previous Sabres record for saves in a regular-season shutout was 44 by Chad Johnson in December 2015.

The Sharks, meanwhile, have been playing better hockey lately regardless of location — especially considering a woeful start that saw them drop their first four games.

Left winger Evander Kane became the first Shark ever to record a hat trick in the first period in the team’s 5-2 victory last Wednesday, denying the visiting Carolina Hurricanes their franchise-best start to a season.

Even after the Buffalo defeat, San Jose coach Peter DeBoer had mostly positives to say about the Sharks, who have three wins in their last four matches.

“I liked our resiliency and thought we battled all night,” DeBoer said. “When I look at our seven or eight games we’ve played, that’s one of the better 60-minute efforts.

“I think we’re getting better. I can tell you I like where our team’s at now better than I did two weeks ago. Our game’s starting to look more recognizable.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson moved his assist streak to four straight games with a pair of helpers against Buffalo, and center Tomas Hertl is riding a three-game goal-scoring streak.

The Sharks may be jelling more due to the signing of team icon Patrick Marleau, who joined the team in Chicago in its first win of the season on Oct. 10.

Marleau, 40, scored twice in the 5-4 victory over the Blackhawks and added an assist in the next game against Calgary. He has three points in his four games played.

San Jose announced following Monday’s practice that it had recalled defenseman Trevor Carrick and forward Jonny Brodzinski from AHL affiliate San Jose.

–Field Level Media

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