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Coyotes continue homestand by welcoming in Sabres

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (29-11-6) at COYOTES (28-16-5)

Last 10: Buffalo 7-0-3; Phoenix 4-3-3

Season Series: Second and final meeting of the regular season. Buffalo will be shooting for the season sweep after picking up a 2-1 win at HSBC Arena on Oct. 8. The game was scoreless into the third period before Matthew Lombardi opened the scoring for the Coyotes with a power-play goal. But Clarke MacArthur answered for the Sabres and Thomas Vanek netted the power-play winner with 3:53 remaining. Jason LaBarbera stopped 37 shots, but was outdueled by Ryan Miller (23 saves).

Big Story: Buffalo has picked up at least a point in 10 straight games to open up a double-digit lead in the Northeast Division. This will be the third stop on a seven-game road trip that will take the Sabres through California for games against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks, before the finale in Vancouver against the Canucks. Regulation hasn't been enough to decide the first two games of the trip -- Buffalo won 2-1 in overtime in Atlanta before dropping a 3-2 decision on Long Island in a shootout.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Drew Stafford made sure Buffalo got a point Saturday by scoring the tying goal midway through the third period. The Sabres and Islanders then engaged in an eight-round shootout. The Sabres were down to their final opportunity twice before Stafford (in the fourth round) and Jochen Hecht (in the sixth round) scored to prolong the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Finally, Trent Hunter scored in the eighth round for the Islanders and Patrick Kaleta missed the net to give New York the second point.

"I'm not going to be banging my head off the wall too hard. I set those guys up pretty well," said Miller, who stopped 36 shots prior to the shootout. "From my perspective they were fortunate to get a puck by me."

Coyotes: After losing the first two of a six-game homestand and five of six overall, Phoenix has responded with quality wins over New Jersey and Minnesota at Arena. The Coyotes opened up a 5-1 lead on the Wild by midway through the third period on Saturday, then had to hang on as Guillaume Latendresse completed his first career hat trick. Radim Vrbata scored with one minute left to seal a 6-4 victory.

"We're trying to entertain the fans and keep them in the building," coach Dave Tippett joked afterward. "That's why we're taking all the penalties (late in the game). It's good for the fans but bad for the coach."

Who's Hot:
Buffalo forward Tim Connolly has five goals and 11 assists during an 11-game points streak. Miller is 5-0-1 in his last six starts, allowing two goals or less four times.

Vrbata has two goals and two assists during a four-game points streak for Phoenix. Petr Prucha had two goals and a plus-3 rating Saturday against Minnesota. Vernon Fiddler had the game-winning, shorthanded goal and has three points in the last two games.

Injury Report:
The only significant injury on either side is to Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer, who hasn't played since the season opener due to a head injury.

Stat Pack: Miller leads the League with a 2.01 goals-against average and has been ever better on the road, where he's 12-4-1 with a 1.86 GAA. He's 2-0-0 with a 0.50 GAA in two career starts against Phoenix, including a shutout in his only previous game at Arena on Jan. 31, 2009.

Puck Drop:
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski returned from a two-game suspension to play a team-leading 22:52 on Saturday. Jovanovski is also fourth on the team with 26 points.

"Phenomenal," Tippett said. "He just eats up so many minutes. The best thing I can say about him is your team loves him on the ice and the other team hates him on the ice."

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