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RED WINGS (15-7-1) at SABRES (13-10-1)
TV: NHLN-US (HD), FS-D (HD), MSG-B
Last 10: Detroit 8-2-0; Buffalo 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the first of two meetings between the teams, the other is on Jan. 16 on Detroit. In their only meeting last season, Pavel Datsyuk tallied in regulation and again in the shootout to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 win on Feb. 26.
Big Story: Since 1995-96, Detroit has won 17 of 21 matchups against Buffalo, and they come to First Niagara Center on a roll. The Red Wings kick off December winners of six in a row and sit near the top of the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the injury-depleted Sabres are coming off a home loss to the New York Islanders - a team currently ranked 15th in the Eastern Conference - and have lost four of five.
Red Wings: On their most recent upswing, Detroit has regained its status as the cream of the Western crop. Only one win on its streak has come by a one-goal margin, and that was the Discover Thanksgiving Showdown in which they beat Boston at TD Garden 3-2 in a shootout to end the Bruins' 10-game winning streak.
"I think we've done a lot of good things," coach Mike Babcock said. "We're playing with more tempo."
However, compared to their sparkling home record, Detroit has been just average away from Joe Louis Arena -- they are just 5-5-0 despite having won their last three away from home.
Sabres: While Detroit was burning through the month of November, Buffalo was hobbling. The Sabres sustained the most November injuries in the League, which resulted in a lackluster 7-6-1 record. Their most recent casualty was defenseman Jordan Leopold, who left during the first period against New York with an upper-body injury.
Add Leopold to the long list of key Sabres who will miss the showdown with Detroit, a list so well-spread around the ice as to be especially crippling. There is the usual starter in net, Ryan Miller, who is still going through his battery of concussion tests. Then there are the defenders: Leopold, Mike Weber (upper body) and Tyler Myers (broken wrist). Rounding it out are four forwards,Brad Boyes (right leg),Patrick Kaleta (groin),Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Cody McCormick (upper body).
Who's Hot: Datsyuk has five goals and five assists during Detroit's win streak. … Buffalo's Jordan Hecht has goals in his last two games. Hecht has only been in the lineup for four games since returning from a preseason concussion.
Injury Report: Aside from Patrick Eaves - who suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by a slap shot Saturday against Nashville - the Red Wings are healthy. … Leopold is expected to miss a week with his upper-body injury, while Ennis and Kaleta are both game-time decisions.
Stat Pack: These teams don't play often, but certain Wings use the rare affair to pad their offensive stats. Nicklas Lidstrom has two goals and 20 assists in his last 23 games against Buffalo, and Henrik Zetterberg has five assists in as many meetings with the Sabres. Datsyuk scored goals in each of the last two, as well as the shootout winner last season. … Detroit has scored power-play goal in five straight visits to the First Niagara Center.
Puck Drop: "I haven't even sat down and talked to the coaches about (a return date) because I haven't finalized anything with the doctors. They want to know how I feel after some really intense days of practice." - Miller on the timetable for his return from concussion. His backup, Jhonas Enroth is 8-4-1 but has never faced the Red Wings.