GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (45-17-6) at Buffalo Sabres (44-18-5).
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes are two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but both have endured tough times in recent days.
Both teams look to get back on track as they face off at HSBC Arena.
The Sabres expect to have coach Lindy Ruff back behind the bench for the contest. Ruff missed Monday night's game at Atlanta so he could be with his 11-year old daughter, Madeleine, for a doctor's appointment. She has been diagnosed with an unidentified mass on her brain.
Ruff said he may have to miss more practices and games in the future to be with his daughter.
Assistants Scott Arniel and Brian McCutcheon were in charge Monday night, when the Sabres lost 5-0, their most lopsided loss since a 10-4 defeat Nov. 2 to the Ottawa Senators.
"We definitely feel like we let Brian and Scott down," said Buffalo center Daniel Briere. "We weren't sharp. The puck was bouncing. We were losing control. We weren't executing like we usually do."
The Sabres managed just 20 shots on goal in the loss, their second in a row after eight straight wins. Atlanta's Slava Kozlov said Buffalo clearly missed its coach.
"The Sabres did not show up tonight for one reason and that's their coach," Kozlov said. "He was not here today and I think all their minds were on him."
Buffalo, which has a five-game home winning streak entering this game, hosts Northeast Division-leading Ottawa on Friday.
The Hurricanes have to wait one more game to return home. The matchup with Buffalo concludes a stretch of nine road contests in 10 games for Carolina.
All the travel could be taking its toll. Carolina lost 3-2 Tuesday at Toronto, its fifth defeat in seven games.
"It will be nice to get back home," said Eric Staal, who scored his team-leading 42nd goal in the loss. "We want first overall in our conference and first overall. We're going to try win every game from here on out. It's too bad we didn't get one tonight."
The Hurricanes trail both the Senators and the Detroit Red Wings by four points for the best overall mark in the NHL.
Carolina won both earlier meetings with the Sabres this season, and Hurricanes left wing Cory Stillman had four assists in the two games.
STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 96 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Sabres - 93 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 42 goals, 48 assists and 90 points; Mike Commodore, 99 PIM. Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 24 goals; Teppo Numminen, 36 assists; Ales Kotalik and Maxim Afinogenov, 53 points; Andrew Peters, 77 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 18.4 percent (83 for 451), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (303 for 369), 16th. Sabres - Power play: 21.3 percent (86 for 404), 2nd. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (309 for 361), 3rd.
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (32-11-4, 3 SO, 2.68 GAA); Cam Ward (13-6-2, 0, 3.52). Sabres - Ryan Miller (25-9-2, 0, 2.47); Martin Biron (18-7-3, 0, 2.94).
SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 12; Hurricanes, 4-3 (SO). At Raleigh, N.C., Staal's goal in the sixth round of the shootout sent Carolina into the Olympic break on a winning note.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 18-12-5 on the road; Sabres - 23-8-3 at home.