BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alex Tuch is back in the Empire State, where he always seems to play his best.
The Golden Knights are hopeful the homecoming will snap the winger out of his recent struggles.
“I just talked to him about that on the ice. I said, ‘You know where you’re at,’ ” coach Gerard Gallant said Monday following practice at KeyBank Center. “He’s a good player, and we need him now.”
Tuch has been mired in a monthlong scoring slump with four points since the team returned from its three-game trip through New York and New Jersey.
The lack of production has started to weigh on the 23-year-old, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Baldwinsville, which is a little more than a two-hour drive from Buffalo.
“I’m not scoring. I’m not producing. Something’s got to change. I’ve got to be better,” Tuch said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m playing 25 minutes a night or five. I’ve got to go out there and make the most of my chances.”
Tuch produced 20 goals and 52 points last season and was expected to build on that entering his third full NHL season. But several factors have contributed to Tuch’s struggles.
In the second-to-last preseason game against Los Angeles, Tuch took a hard spill into the boards and sustained an upper-body injury that kept him out until Oct. 31.
But during his second game back, Tuch absorbed a check to the head from Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry and was out four more games. Tuch also has yet to develop chemistry with his linemates, as he’s been shuffled up and down the lineup.
He saw time on the first line during the recently concluded homestand and will likely skate on the third line Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.
“He needs to find a couple of goals. I thought last game it’s starting to come a little bit better for him,” Gallant said. “And to be fair to Tuchy, he’s been moved all over. Left wing, right wing, different lines because of injuries.
“I’m not making excuses for the kid because I know he’s going to be a real good player. But it’s time for him just to take off because he’s got all the tools.”
Tuch has six goals and 13 points in 31 games, with a large portion of that production coming last month in and around his home state.
He tallied three goals in two games against the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, and added three assists in the victory at New Jersey.
Last season, Tuch missed the game at Buffalo due to injury but combined for a goal and an assist in the matchups against the Rangers and Islanders. He also scored against New Jersey.
As a rookie, he notched two points at the Islanders and had an assist against the Rangers.
In his only career appearance against the Sabres at KeyBank Center, Tuch was held without a point.
Tuch went seven games without a point from Nov. 16 through 27 and hasn’t registered a point since he was credited with a goal against Anaheim on Dec. 31 when Ducks defenseman Josh Manson put the puck in his own net.
He had six shot attempts in the loss to Los Angeles on Thursday and finished with four shot attempts, four hits and two takeaways in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Columbus.
“I had a few (chances), but didn’t take advantage,” Tuch said. “Maybe it’s just an inch here or an inch there, but the bottom line is I’ve just got to be better.”
■ Who: Golden Knights at Sabres
■ When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
■ Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
■ TV: AT&T Sports Net (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
■ Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
■ Line: Knights -140; total 6