With a matchup against the league's best team looming on the horizon, the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators look to avoid a letdown Thursday when they host the slumping Buffalo Sabres, who are trying to avoid losing eight straight games for the first time in five years.
The Senators (27-10-4) have won five of their last seven games to build a seven-point lead over New Jersey in the East. Ottawa is hoping to make a return to the Stanley Cup finals after losing to Anaheim last season.
On Saturday, the Senators host Detroit in a potential Cup finals preview, but Ottawa is trying to avoid the hype surrounding that game and remain focused on the Sabres.
"We know it's a big game Saturday, but at the same time, this is a divisional game that we really want to win," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson told the team's official Web site.
Ottawa defeated the Sabres 5-3 on Friday, and has won three of four meetings against them this season. The Senators are 13-4-3 against Buffalo since the 2005-06 season, including a 7-2-0 mark at Scotiabank Place.
"We've got to be prepared and ready (for Buffalo)," Ottawa goaltender Martin Gerber said. "It's never been an easy game when we've played them. They've been struggling, but they can do damage if you don't pay attention to them. So we have to be well prepared."
Gerber is 6-2-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average in his last 10 games, and has allowed five goals in winning each of his two starts against the Sabres this season. He is 5-4-1 with a 3.39 GAA all-time against Buffalo.
Backup goalie Ray Emery had 16 saves in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay. He stopped 36 shots in last week's win over the Sabres, and is 10-3-1 with a 3.02 GAA in his career against them.
Mike Fisher scored the winning goal 3:17 into overtime on Saturday, giving him seven goals and three assists during a season-high seven-game points streak. Fisher has a goal and three assists against the Sabres this season, but may miss this game with the flu.
Dany Heatley scored his 25th goal against the Lightning, and has three goals and four assists against Buffalo this season.
Alfredsson had a goal and an assist against the Sabres last week, and has five goals and an assist when facing them this season. Alfredsson, who also has 25 goals, has five and five assists during his seven-game points streak.
The Sabres (19-18-4) are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to New Jersey on Tuesday - the third shootout loss during their skid.
Buffalo, which has been outscored 23-11 during its seven-game slide, haven't dropped eight in a row since Jan. 25-Feb. 13, 2003.
"We didn't give up," said Jason Pominville who scored for Buffalo with 1:47 remaining in the third period to tie the score at 1. "We capitalized which was good to see. There is no quit in this team. That's a good sign. We just have to keep working hard."
Ryan Miller, who has started 15 straight games for the Sabres, made 29 saves on Tuesday and has a 2.23 GAA during the losing streak.
Miller stopped 13 of 16 shots before being pulled in Friday's loss to the Senators, and is 1-2-0 with a 3.45 GAA against them this season.