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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (28-29-6-1) at Ottawa Senators (34-16-9-5).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

Back under .500 and slipping in the playoff race, the Buffalo Sabres hope to end a three-game losing streak when they begin a home-and-home series with the Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre.

Following a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1), the Sabres have been outscored 16-5 in three defeats, including Friday's critical 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders. That left the Sabres eight points behind the Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It's not out of reach," coach Lindy Ruff said of the playoffs. "But it's going to be tough. We need to fire on all cylinders."

Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont each had a goal and an assist for Buffalo, which was just three points behind the Islanders and Montreal for the eighth spot last week.

Although they have earned a point in 10 of 11 games, the Senators have just two wins in their last six (2-1-2-1). On Thursday, Ottawa tied the Philadelphia Flyers 1-1 in a battle of division leaders.

Marian Hossa scored his 27th goal for Ottawa, which held a 40-18 advantage in shots.

The Senators will play both ends of the home-and-home without winger Martin Havlat, who was suspended two games by the NHL on Friday for hitting Philadelphia wing Mark Recchi in the face with his stick. Havlat, third on the Senators with 55 points, can return March 5 at Philadelphia.

"I was frustrated from all the hooking before that," Havlat said. "I wanted to hit him, but I didn't want to hit his face. I don't know where I hit him, I didn't see a replay. It was a bad decision at that time."

Following Saturday's game, the Senators will play seven of eight on the road.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 63 points, 5th place, 19 PB, Northeast Division. Senators - 82 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Miroslav Satan, 24 goals; Daniel Briere, 28 assists and 49 points; Andrew Peters, 107 PIM. Senators - Hossa, 27 goals, 40 assists and 67 points; Chris Neil, 144 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 26): Sabres - Power play:15.5 percent (42 for 271), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (233 for 275), 11th. Senators - Power play: 22.1 percent (68 for 307), 2nd. Penalty killing:83.9 percent (230 for 274), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Martin Biron (17-13-4, 0 SO, 2.66 GAA); Mika Noronen (11-14-2, 2, 2.30). Senators - Patrick Lalime (21-17-7, 3, 2.24); Martin Prusek (12-4-2, 3, 1.86).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 2-0-2.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 9; Sabres, 3-2. At Buffalo, Rory Fitzpatrick scored the game-winner in the third period and Biron made 23 saves as the Sabres ended the Senators' 11-game unbeaten streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 11-18-2-0 on the road; Senators - 20-7-5-4 at home.

Associated Press
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