An early break in the schedule helped rejuvenate the Buffalo Sabres. Now they hope another one does not throw them off.
Buffalo will try to extend its winning streak to four games when it hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
The Sabres (3-2-0) began the season by losing both ends of a home-and-home series to the New York Islanders on Oct. 5-6. Following a four-day break, Buffalo scored 18 goals while winning three straight at home in a span of five days.
Now the Sabres enter this contest after three days off. They won't get a break after the game, taking a flight to Montreal to begin a five-game road trip on Saturday night.
Last Saturday in their most recent game, the Sabres scored four times in the third period before Paul Gaustad's goal with 3.7 seconds left in overtime gave them a 5-4 win over Toronto. Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht each had a goal and assist, and Jocelyn Thibault stopped 21 shots in his Buffalo debut as Ryan Miller's backup.
"It's the strong mentality of this club," Buffalo's Ales Kotalik said of the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners. "We have a strong group in here. We never give up, and we believe in each other and work for each other."
Another reason for Buffalo's resurgence is its power play. The Sabres are 6-for-21 with the man advantage during their winning streak after going 1-for-11 in the losses to the Islanders.
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek has scored two of his team-leading three power-play goals during Buffalo's run, but he's expected to miss this game and Saturday's contest with a sprained shoulder suffered late in the win over the Maple Leafs.
"(Spacek's) sore," coach Lindy Ruff told the Sabres' official Web site. "He's going to be out for the weekend and then we'll just evaluate it on a day-to-day basis after that."
Miller, a 40-game winner last season, should be back in goal Friday. He is 2-2-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average and his .885 save percentage is 27th in the league.
Miller is 1-1-0 with a 3.51 GAA in two career starts versus the Blue Jackets, who are visiting Buffalo for the first time since March 2004. Buffalo has outscored Columbus 11-4 while winning the last two matchups at HSBC Arena.
The Blue Jackets (2-2-1) have been outscored 8-3 while losing both of their road games this season. At home, though, Columbus has picked up five of a possible six points after falling to Dallas 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday.
Nikolai Zherdev assisted on goals by Rick Nash and former Sabre Jiri Novotny. Nash, though, failed to extend the shootout to a fourth round when he was stopped by Stars backup goaltender Mike Smith.
"It's really unacceptable. Good teams can finish those games and win those games no problem. We really have to learn to protect a lead, especially at home," Nash told the Blue Jackets' official Web site.
High-scoring forward Fredrik Modin was scratched by Columbus due to a groin injury and could miss this game. Modin was second on the Blue Jackets with 22 goals last season, the fifth time in his career in which he's scored more than 20.