SENATORS (7-8-1) at SABRES (9-5-0)
TV: SNET-E, TVA, MSG-B
Last 10: Ottawa 6-3-1; Buffalo 6-4-0
Season Series: Second of six meetings this season, and second in seven days between these Northeast Division rivals. It took six rounds of a shootout, but Buffalo won 3-2 in Ottawa last Saturday when Derek Roy
put the puck past Craig Anderson
. Roy and Jordan Leopold
had regulation goals for the Sabres, while Milan Michalek
and Erik Condra
scored for the Senators.
Big Story: Buffalo has won three straight and is pushing Toronto for the division lead, but there could be a bit of a goaltending controversy brewing. Ryan Miller
is a past Vezina Trophy winner and Olympic star, but he recently suffered a personal four-game losing streak and turned in a less-than-convincing performance in a win Tuesday, allowing five goals on 31 shots. Meanwhile, backup Jhonas Enroth
has won all four of his starts with a 1.41 goals-against average and .952 save percentage, improving to 13-3-2 in his brief NHL career.
Senators: During its six-game winning streak to end the month of October, Ottawa scored 23 goals, an average of nearly four per game. Since then, the Senators have averaged two goals in an 0-3-1 slump that continued with Wednesday's 3-2 home loss to the Rangers. Captain Daniel Alfredsson
has been absent from the lineup dating back to the final game of the win streak due to a concussion, but he took the morning skate Wednesday and was expected to travel with the team to Buffalo.
"I think (the results) were good," said Alfredsson, who passed his baseline exam and has met the NHL protocol for returning to action. "I was happy with what I did, so I don't think it's an issue at all … I'm just going to take it one day at a time and we'll go from there."
Sabres: At the end of the season it's the top eight teams from each conference that make the playoffs and nobody questions how you compiled the points, so Buffalo isn't going to apologize for the fact its 6-5 overtime win over Winnipeg on Tuesday didn't exactly follow the normal Lindy Ruff blueprint. The Sabres had to rally from deficits of 2-0, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 before finally prevailing on Thomas Vanek
's second power-play goal of the game with 25 seconds left in overtime. Roy also had a pair of power-play tallies to overcome Miller's shaky performance.
"Obviously, we all know that Ryan needs to be better. He was fighting it, there's no doubt," Ruff said. "But I liked the fight the team put up. That's even more important than the fight that Ryan was putting up."
Who's Hot: Michalek has goals in consecutive games for the Senators and his 10 goals entering Thursday were tied for second in the League, one behind Phil Kessel of the Maple Leafs. … Vanek reached 10 goals with his pair on Tuesday. Jason Pominville
, the Sabres' leading scorer, had a goal and a pair of assists. His 18 points were fourth in the League heading into Thursday's action. Roy is suddenly hot after a slow start, recording 3 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak.
Injury Report: Alfredsson remains day-to-day for Ottawa, which has defenseman Matt Carkner
(knee) and forward Peter Regin
(shoulder) on injured reserve. … Buffalo forward Ville Leino
and defenseman Tyler Myers
are day-to-day with undisclosed ailments. Forwards Jochen Hecht
(concussion) and Tyler Ennis
(ankle) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Third-year Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson
entered Thursday tied with Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Lightning for the lead among defenseman with 13 assists. … The Sabres won two-thirds of their faceoffs against the Jets, with Pominville and Paul Gaustad
combining to go 27-7 on draws.
Puck Drop: "To be brutally honest, after those first two, I was just like, 'Yeah. OK we're going to do this again, huh?'" Miller said following Tuesday's game. "I tried to just slowly keep myself in the game. It helped that the guys kept putting goals up. You don't plan nights like that and you certainly don't like to see too many of them, but it's good we came out on the winning side.
"Again, we're going to have to learn some lessons from this one, and personally I just need to take away where I can be better and where I can make a difference. There are some situations out there where I need to start to get a little more in sync with my guys."