Now that all the attention from playing in the NHL's first outdoor game in the United States is over, the Buffalo Sabres can get back to the task at hand.
That means trying to end a season-high four-game losing streak Friday night when the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators visit HSBC Arena.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and his players were thrilled to be a part of the outdoor Winter Classic on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. What they weren't happy with was a 2-1 shootout loss that dropped them to 0-2-2 in their last four games.
"I'd love to do it again. I thought it was awesome," Ruff said. "It was good for the game. It may not be the best hockey game because of the situation, because of the weather, because of the snow, but the atmosphere was incredible.
"The hell with the cynics."
Brian Campbell scored the lone goal for Buffalo (19-16-3), which had won a season-high six straight before its current slide.
"I feel really fortunate to be a part of this," said right wing Ales Kotalik, who scored the Sabres' only shootout goal. "It's going to be one of my biggest memories over my entire sports career."
Ryan Miller made 24 saves in regulation and overtime before he was beaten by Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby in the shootout.
Snowy conditions made creating offense very difficult Tuesday, so the low-scoring result came as no surprise. The Sabres, however, totaled only one goal in their two games before the Winter Classic.
With the offseason departures of high-scoring centers Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the Sabres knew they would need offense from other sources to be successful.
While centers Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy have been as good or better than expected with 13 goals apiece, left wing Thomas Vanek, a 43-goal scorer last season, has only 11. Right wing Jason Pominville, coming off a career-high 34 goals in 2006-07, has nine.
Buffalo hasn't lost five straight since a six-game skid from March 18-27, 2006.
The Senators (25-10-4) should be happy to see any team other than Washington, which has scored 18 goals in handing Ottawa three of its regulation losses this season.
Despite scoring twice in the game's first five minutes, the Senators struggled defensively and goaltender Martin Gerber was unable to bail them out in a 6-3 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.
Gerber has allowed 10 goals on 37 shots in his last two games, perhaps paving the way for Ray Emery to make his first start since Dec. 22. Emery, however, appears to have fallen out of favor with coach John Paddock, who has been upset with the goalie's practice habits.
Rugged defenseman Anton Volchenkov is expected to return for the Senators on Friday after missing 15 games with a broken right index finger.
"He's a big cornerstone on our defense," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "It's great that he's coming back. We've definitely missed him."
Linemates Dany Heatley and Alfredsson have combined for six goals and four assists in three games against Buffalo this season. Alfredsson has goals in five straight games versus the Sabres, totaling six in that span.
The Senators lead this season's series 2-1-0, including a 5-3 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 26 that snapped the Sabres' six-game win streak.
|Mar 27 '08||BUF 4 at OTT 3 - SO||D. Roy|
|Mar 25 '08||OTT 6 at BUF 3||A. Volchenkov|
|Feb 12 '08||BUF 5 at OTT 1||T. Vanek|
|Jan 10 '08||BUF 2 at OTT 3 - SO||D. McAmmond|
|Jan 04 '08||OTT 5 at BUF 3||D. Heatley|
|Dec 26 '07||OTT 5 at BUF 3||D. Alfredsson|
|Nov 21 '07||OTT 2 at BUF 4||D. Roy|
|Nov 15 '07||BUF 2 at OTT 3||S. Donovan|