BUFFALO, NY -- The Buffalo Sabres looked to be turning things around when center Jack Eichel returned from injury nearly a month ago. However, they've hit the skids again losing four straight heading into Detroit on Tuesday night.
The scoring woes have returned with the club only scoring one goal per game in three of their last four games.
The roster appears to be in need of a spark to find their scoring touch again. But with the news of top-six center Ryan O'Reilly missing roughly three weeks with an appendectomy, the need for a change has been heightened.
Sticking with the same lineup while O'Reilly is out over the next few weeks could put the Sabres in a bigger hole then they find themselves in now.
Buffalo has a few different ways they can go about finding reinforcements. The most obvious and likely scenario would be a call up from their farm team Rochester Americans. The Sabres' AHL affiliate has a few forwards that have found their game recently and would be a beneficial addition to the lineup.
The first player is 2013 second-round pick Justin Bailey. The 21-year old played two games with the big club early in the season before being sent back to Rochester. He failed to impress and was frankly unnoticeable in those two games. A lot of hope was placed in Bailey entering the season as many expected him to earn a roster spot out of training camp after a strong finish to the 2015-16 season.
The start of the season was very disappointing for Bailey with both the Sabres and Americans. Over the last month, though, Bailey has started to turn it on in Rochester. He scored two more goals on Monday night against the Syracuse Crunch for his 11th and 12th of the season. The Buffalo native has 21 points in 30 games for the Amerks. He's starting to use his combination of size and speed that make him such an important prospect for the Sabres.
Management in Buffalo can't let a few bad games in the season cloud their view of Bailey. The Sabres roster is in desperate need of speed and Bailey can bring that with a scoring touch as well.
Speaking of speed, Nick Baptiste is another player the Sabres could call upon. The 2013 third-round pick has played 12 games with Buffalo and registered two goals during that time. His speed in the lineup was nice to see and created some trouble for opposing defenders.
When he was returned to Rochester, Baptiste did something all coaches and general managers want to see. He didn't hang his head; instead, he went on a scoring tear. His 14 goals in 22 games have him tied for the lead in the American Hockey League.
Baptiste had minimal opportunity to play a top-six role when he was with the Sabres. He spent the majority of his time playing on the fourth line. I'd be interested to see the type of production or chemistry he may have playing on the wing with a player like Eichel.
I believe Baptiste, or even Bailey, could be a better fit than the current options of Marcus Foligno and Matt Moulson.
Depending on how bad things get for the Sabres over the next few weeks, it may be time for them to look for help outside the organization. The trade deadline is two months away and Buffalo could look to get a head start in making moves.
The Colorado Avalanche is an intriguing team to target if the Sabres want to explore the trade market. They're in the basement of the NHL standings and appear to be in desperate need of a shakeup. Big names like Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene have been put into the rumor mill as being available in the right trade. Of course, a deal of that type of magnitude doesn't happen overnight and usually doesn’t happen in a season.
Sabres GM Tim Murray could, of course, look at other trade avenues outside of Colorado.
At this time, though, the short term solution likely comes in the form of a call-up from Rochester. A trade will likely wait until closer to the deadline or if things really start to come off the rails with the team.
The Sabres need to quickly turn things around or they'll find themselves out of realistic playoff contention by Valentine's Day. The team no longer has the time to let the current roster play through the struggles. It's time to mix the lineup up a little and see if that can get the club headed in the correct direction.
Chad DeDominicis is the Buffalo Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.