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Buffalo makes second trip to Atlanta this month

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (3-6-1) at THRASHERS (4-4-1)


Season Series:
Second of four meetings this season and the second in a span of 10 days at Philips Arena. Buffalo claimed a 4-1 win on Atlanta's home ice on Oct. 20, with Tyler Myers netting the game-winner on a power play and Sabres defensemen accounting for 6 points.

Big Story: Chris Mason continues to shoulder the load in goal for the Thrashers -- it's expected he'll play in his 10th straight game and make his ninth consecutive start on Friday. Backup Peter Mannino played two periods in relief on Oct. 22 against the Lightning, but otherwise it's been all Mason, all the time since Ondrej Pavelec went down in the season opener. Pavelec made a rehab start for Chicago of the AHL on Wednesday, stopping 19 of 22 shots in a 4-1 loss to Oklahoma City. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Pavelec is in line to start for the Thrashers on Saturday in St. Louis.

Team Scope:

Sabres: This is the first of a back-to-back set for Buffalo, which concludes its four-game road trip Saturday night in Dallas. The Sabres have split the first two, routing the Devils last Saturday but falling 6-3 to the Flyers on Tuesday. Their defensemen continued to chip in offensively, as Myers scored another power-play goal and Steve Montador added a third-period tally that cut the Philadelphia lead to 5-3, but Buffalo could draw no closer.

"It's a tough one to take, but we have to figure out how to play a full game like we did the last 10 minutes of that game," Myers told the Buffalo News. "Until we do that, we're going to end up on the losing end of games."

Thrashers: Six different players scored goals and 11 collected points for Atlanta in a 6-4 win Wednesday over the New York Rangers. That included forwards Bryan Little, Niclas Bergfors and Eric Boulton each picking up his first goal of the season. While Boulton is valued more for his physical play, Little and Bergfors are guys the Thrashers will look to for goals here and there if they are going to be a contending team this season.

"We play pretty well and there are games where we've been really good for the majority of the game, but we're counting on goals from a lot of people that have been considered third- and fourth-line players," coach Craig Ramsay said. "I don't think they are and they're showing that they're not, but if we can get our offensively-gifted people to score, what a difference it can make. It did tonight."

Who's Hot: After a slow start, Thomas Vanek has 4 goals in as many games for the Sabres. Myers has goals in consecutive games and three of his last four. Leading scorer Derek Roy (5-6-11) has 4 assists in his last two games.

Andrew Ladd had an empty-net goal and an assist for the Thrashers on Wednesday, giving him 3 goals and 5 assists during a six-game points streak. He leads the team in scoring with 10 points. Evander Kane has 3 goals in his last two games and a team-leading 6 goals this season.

Injury Report: Buffalo hopes to have defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (groin) back in the lineup, while fellow blueliner Andrej Sekera (upper body) is day-to-day. Forward Jason Pominville has started skating as he recovers from a concussion. … Atlanta defensemen Zach Bogosian (shoulder) and Freddy Meyer (undisclosed) missed Wednesday's game and are day-to-day.

Stat Pack:
The Sabres continue to put pucks on net, ranking sixth in the NHL with an average of 33.7 shots per game. The Thrashers, meanwhile, are allowing 36.6 shots per game -- only the Ducks (39.7) force their goaltenders to face more rubber.

Puck Drop: In spite of its overall record, Buffalo is actually a winning team on the road (3-2-0) and has already left Atlanta with two points once this month.

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