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'Canes go for home-and-home sweep of Sabres

by Mike Battaglino

HURRICANES (1-2-0) AT SABRES (2-1-0)

TV: FS-Carolinas, MSG

Season series: This is the second of a back-to-back, home-and-home set for the teams; the Hurricanes won 6-3 at home on Thursday. Last season, the clubs were evenly matched over four games, each winning twice (once at home), with Carolina owning a 10-9 edge in goals.

Big story: The teams flipped the script on their starts to the 2012-13 season in Thursday's game. The Sabres, returning much of last season's team, had been excellent, winning with offense (5-2 against the Philadelphia Flyers) and defense (2-1 at Toronto). The Hurricanes, with some high-profile newcomers, had struggled on either end, losing 5-1 to the Florida Panthers and 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But Carolina got two goals within 9 seconds, a hat trick from Eric Staal and two assists from Jordan Staal to pull away in the second period.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina opened last season 8-17-4, and a similar slow start with a shorter schedule would be devastating.

"It's a taken a couple games to get our legs and play the style that we want," coach Kirk Muller said after Thursday's win. "But it looked like tonight we're finally getting into the mix and being able to play that tempo. If we can do that, I think we can wear some teams down. We have to be a 60-minute team."

Goalie Cam Ward took a goals-against average of 6.00 and a save percentage of .789 into Thursday's game and responded with 30 saves. He could be back in net Friday.

Forward Jeff Skinner scored twice and defenseman Joni Pitkanen had two assists and was a plus-4. The team that led the NHL in shots per game finally saw a payoff.

"You've just got to stick with it," Skinner said. "You've got to be tougher, I think, around their net and today we beared down a little bit more and you stick with it, you keep putting that many pucks on the net, you're going to get a bounce here or there, and one's going to go in for you."

Sabres: The top line of Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson continues to dominate on offense, with 18 points and eight of the team's 10 goals. But they were on the ice for five of the six goals against Thursday.

And a power play that was 3-for-10 in the first two games went 0-for-6 and allowed a shorthanded goal.

"I think we gave up the puck too much," Pominville said. "We battled back a couple of times. [But] we gave up too many rush opportunities and were a little too casual with the puck. It just wasn't our usual game."

Nathan Gerbe made his season debut after sitting out with a back injury; he played 10:06 and had one shot.

"I'm expecting to be sore," Gerbe told the Buffalo News afterward. "Right now it's not too bad, but I'm sure tomorrow it'll be a different story."

Ryan Miller will be back in net after Jhonas Enroth played Thursday.

Who's hot: Miller has stopped 61 of 64 shots for a .953 save percentage. … Pominville has three straight multi-point games. … Hurricanes backup goalie Dan Ellis stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief of Ward in the opener. He could play in the rematch.

Injury report: Sabres forward Ville Leino (leg) was placed on injured reserve. Cody McCormack has an injured finger. … Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu (hip) likely will miss the regular season.

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