Days after signing Tim Connolly to a lucrative contract extension, it's looking like the Buffalo Sabres got a bargain.
Connolly looks to continue his recent strong play and help the Sabres to their third straight win Saturday night when they visit the Ottawa Senators in a Northeast Division matchup.
Connolly had been the subject of trade speculation leading up to Wednesday's deadline, but Buffalo (33-25-7) instead opted to extend the center's contract - which had been set to expire after this season - for two years and $9 million.
Through two games, extending Connolly seems to be a wise choice.
After he had an assist in Wednesday's 5-1 home win over Montreal, Connolly matched his career high with four points Friday, tallying two goals and two assists to lead the Sabres over Phoenix 5-1.
"You try not to think about it, but obviously those (rumors) can creep into the back of your head," said Connolly, who has seven assists in his last five games against the Senators. "The biggest thing is we now have our team set and we can focus on the last stretch here."
Former Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime stopped 29 shots for Buffalo, improving to 2-2-1 since taking over for starter Ryan Miller, who is out indefinitely with a left high ankle sprain.
"Ryan's a top goalie in this league and I told him the last five months I've been taking a lot of notes watching him play," Lalime said. "I'm trying to have some fun and do my job."
Lalime did an excellent job for the Senators from 1999-2004, when he won 146 games - still more than double the total of any other goalie in Ottawa franchise history. He lost to the Senators on Oct. 27, though, stopping 23 shots in Buffalo's 5-2 home defeat.
Ottawa (24-29-10) has taken three of four meetings in the season series, including a 3-2 shootout win Feb. 7 in the only previous matchup at Scotiabank Place.
While the Sabres are one of six teams between 73 and 75 points vying for the final four Eastern Conference playoff spots, Ottawa is in 12th place, likely ending its run of 11 straight postseason appearances. The Senators showed some pride Thursday, though, beating Edmonton 4-2 to snap a three-game losing streak and win for just the second time in seven games.
"We played a good team game and we know we've got to get better and get ourselves to where we were before," said Jason Spezza, who scored the fastest goal in club history just 12 seconds into the contest. "These next 20 games are important for us to build momentum towards next year, and just to build as a team."
Dany Heatley and Chris Campoli also scored for Ottawa. Campoli's goal was his first since the Senators acquired him and Mike Comrie from the New York Islanders on Feb. 20 for Dean McAmmond and a draft pick.