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Canes look to solve defensive woes against Sabres

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (11-7-0) at HURRICANES (6-10-3)


Last 10:
Buffalo 6-4-0; Carolina 3-7-0

Season Series:
Second of four meetings this season. Jeff Skinner's power-play goal with 1:24 left in regulation carried Carolina to a 4-3 win in Buffalo on Oct. 14. Drew Stafford had tied the game for the Sabres just 57 seconds earlier.

Big Story: Heading into Thursday's action, Carolina had allowed the most goals in the NHL (67) and had the second-worst goal differential (minus-21, with Columbus at minus-26). While the struggles of Eric Staal (4 goals, 8 points, League-worst minus-18 rating) have been well-documented, it's the Hurricanes' inability to keep the puck out of their own net that is front and center in their recent struggles.

Team Scope:

Sabres: After going almost a full calendar year without a regulation loss, Jhonas Enroth gave up five goals and ended up being pulled in the third period of Wednesday's 5-3 defeat at the hands of New Jersey. On the plus side for Buffalo, defenseman Tyler Myers returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career and responded with his first two goals of the season. The 6-foot-8, 227-pounder also delivered a big hit on Dainius Zubrus that left the Devils forward momentarily dazed.

"I think playing more physical is what ultimately helped my game. Playing that tough in the zone is what gets me in the game a lot more," Myers told the Sabres' official website. "I'm gonna have to find a way to do that every night. Obviously there are going to be nights when fatigue is going to set in, and it's going to be harder to play that physical for a full 60. It's something that I really have to bring back into my game."

Hurricanes: With seven of the next nine games on home ice, Carolina hopes to reverse a trend that has seen it outscored 30-14 while losing six of the last seven. The offense was stymied Wednesday night in Montreal by Carey Price, who turned aside all 25 shots in dealing the Hurricanes a 4-0 defeat that dropped them to the bottom of the Southeast Division.

"No question there's concern," Staal said. "Obviously, if we keep losing we're not going to be in the mix for the playoffs. So we've got to figure this out and get back to winning some games because if you keep losing, you're going to be out of the picture before you know it and the season's going to be wasted."

Who's Hot:
A pair of Sabres assisted on Myers' first goal Wednesday to extend their points streaks to five games: Thomas Vanek (3-4-7) and Jason Pominville (2-5-7) remain 1-2 on the team in scoring with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Vanek entered Thursday tied for second in NHL scoring, while Pominville was tied for fourth.

Injury Report:
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller (concussion) and forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) are out indefinitely. Forward Cody McCormick (undisclosed) is day-to-day. Forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) is on injured reserve. … Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack:
All three Sabres goals against the Devils came from defensemen, as Jordan Leopold closed out the scoring. … Skinner is on pace to improve the numbers he put up during his Calder Trophy-winning 2010-11 season, as he's posted 18 points in 19 games to lead the team in scoring. He had 63 points in 82 games as a rookie.

Puck Drop:
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff isn't afraid to bench a player to send a message, and he seemed to think Myers had received his well after rejoining the lineup Wednesday.

"I thought Tyler skated well, got up in the play, and made obviously an excellent shot getting up. But he was in on four or five other opportunities. I thought he probably skated as well as he's skated. He had a little bit of edge to him too, which was nice," Ruff told the team's website.

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