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At the Rink: Sabres at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- The Buffalo Sabres will attempt to end a 12-game losing streak Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers, who know the feeling of an extended winless drought.

Edmonton lost 11 consecutive games earlier this season and 20 of 21 before coach Todd Nelson took over exclusively for Dallas Eakins.

Buffalo (14-31-3) has not won since defeating the New York Islanders 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 27. They have not earned a point in that span.

"We're going through a bad stretch but the last three games I think the effort has been there," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "I think we're getting a little better as far as the battle level and the effort goes. As long as the effort and the battle level are there, the outcome will be the outcome based on how you execute things."

The Oilers (12-27-9) have seen a slight turnaround with Nelson, who was accompanied as coach by general manager Craig MacTavish for five games following the firing of Eakins on Dec. 15.

Edmonton is 5-5-2 with Nelson solely as coach. It had a two-game winning streak come to an end with a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Buffalo gave up three third-period goals in a 4-1 loss at the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

"I think both teams are desperate, I think it's going to be a good hockey game," Nelson said. "Both teams want to get back in the win column."

Edmonton will be without left wing Taylor Hall for the second consecutive game. Hall was hit by a puck in practice Monday and sustained a bone bruise in his leg.

Benoit Pouliot has taken Hall's place on the Oilers' top line.

"It's an opportunity for me to step in there and do the job," Pouliot said. "It's always unfortunate missing one of our big guys, but at the same time, all of us have to pick it up."

Edmonton is two points ahead of Buffalo in the NHL standings.

"We need to focus on what we're doing, no matter who we're playing, we need to find our game and play it the right way," Sabres right wing Brian Gionta said. "I think that's what we're searching for now. The last three outings have been better. We still haven't put a 60-minute effort in, in a long time. In order win in this League, you need to play 60 minutes."

Goaltender Ben Scrivens will start for Edmonton. Scrivens did not play in the previous three games, making way for Viktor Fasth.

Jhonas Enroth will make his third consecutive start for Buffalo.

Here are the projected lineups:


Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Tyler Ennis

Brian Flynn - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Gionta

Drew Stafford - Cody Hodgson - Chris Stewart

Nicolas Deslauriers - Matt Ellis - Patrick Kaleta

Josh Gorges - Tyler Myers

Andre Benoit - Tyson Strachan

Mike Weber - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jhonas Enroth

Matt Hackett

Scratched: Nikita Zadorov, Andrej Meszaros

Injured: Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Cody McCormick (leg), Marcus Foligno (hand)


Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Derek RoyTeddy Purcell

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Matt Fraser - Anton LanderLuke Gazdic

Jeff Petry - Andrew Ference

Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Keith Aulie

Injured: Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen), Taylor Hall (leg)

Status report: Zadorov is off the suspended list for joining the Sabres a day late following the All-Star break but will not play against the Oilers. Gazdic will play in a second straight game for the first time since Dec. 16.

Who's hot: Gordon has a goal and an assist in his past three games after going without a point in 12 consecutive games. Moulson has three assists in his past three games.

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