Columbus head coach Scott Arniel said his club went "through hell" over the season's first three weeks. The Blue Jackets hope it only takes one victory to turn things around.
The Buffalo Sabres might need a similar approach given the disappointing start to their longest homestand of the season.
The Blue Jackets look to put their worst start in club history a little further in the rearview mirror while the Sabres try to even their home record this evening at First Niagara Center.
Columbus began the season with raised expectations after the offseason acquisitions of forward Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski, but instead got off to an 0-7-1 start. Carter logged three assists over the Blue Jackets' first five games before going on injured reserve with a hairline fracture in his right foot, while Wisniewski missed the first eight games due to a suspension handed down for a hit to the head during the preseason.
The blueliner made his debut on Tuesday versus the Red Wings and logged just over 27 minutes in a 4-1 win. R.J. Umberger scored his first goal of the season just 21 seconds in, while forward Ryan Johansen and John Moore netted their first NHL goals.
It marked the first time in Columbus team history that a pair of players netted their first career goals in the same game.
"It's been a mental grind here for the first eight games and to be able to get a win over Detroit at home, it's a great feeling right now," said Johansen. "We've kind of forgot what happened at the start and are moving forward from now on."
Derek MacKenzie netted his initial goal of the 2011-12 season, Grant Clitsome posted a career-high three assists and Steve Mason made 30 saves. He had given up at least three goals in seven of his first eight games this year, including each of the previous four.
Mason put forth his outstanding effort despite leaving the game briefly in the first period with what appeared to be a shoulder issue, but returned 2 1/2 minutes later. The ailment isn't expected to keep him out of tonight's game as Columbus aims for its first road win of the season (0-4).
"He went in and saw the doctors real quick and everything was good and I was so proud of him that he came back," Arniel said of his goaltender. "He was the one that said 'I'm going back in.' It's a big step for Steve Mason. He was outstanding."
The Sabres had ripped off three straight wins before getting swept in a home- and-home set by the Lightning. After getting shutout on the road Saturday, Buffalo began its five-game residency three nights later with a 4-3 defeat despite scoring the game's first two goals.
"We all have to get better, we all have to improve here. It's not good enough at home," said Miller. "You can credit bounces and teams are tough to play against, but in the end we lost a hockey game and we've got to figure out how to get better."
Gerbe made things interesting when his goal with 49.2 seconds left pulled the Sabres within one, but they could not muster the equalizer.
"It's just a mix of our own fault on turnovers and bad luck," said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who saw one of Tampa Bay's goals go in off his skate.
Forward Tyler Ennis missed Tuesday's loss with a left ankle injury and is sidelined indefinitely.
The Sabres had lost four in a row to the Blue Jackets before taking both meetings against the club last year. That includes a 5-0 victory at home on Dec. 3 that was fueled by 19 saves from Miller.