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Predators return home to host struggling Sabres

by Pete Jensen

SABRES (13-11-1) at PREDATORS (12-9-4)


LAST 10: Buffalo 3-6-1; Nashville 4-4-2

Season Series: Saturday marks the lone clash of the season between the Sabres and Predators. In the only head-to-head meeting last season, Martin Erat scored the game-winning goal 27 seconds into overtime as Nashville scored three unanswered goals for a 4-3 win in Buffalo on March 20.

Big Story: The Sabres, losers of consecutive home games this week, play for the second time in as many nights when they travel to Music City. Buffalo was held to a single goal for the second straight game on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. The Predators are back home after a swing through Western Canada and hope to find some success at Bridgestone Arena -- where they have won only four times in 10 home games this season.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo's struggles at home continued as Detroit handed the Sabres their fifth loss in six games at First Niagara Center.

With Buffalo in dire need of a spark after a 2-1 loss on Tuesday to the last-place New York Islanders, Detroit set the tone early by scoring three first-period goals on Jhonas Enroth. Jochen Hecht scored for the Sabres with 6:13 left in the third period, but Pavel Datsyuk ended any hope of a Buffalo rally with an empty-netter to put the finishing touches on a 4-1 win for the Red Wings -- their seventh straight victory.

"That first period showed how a top team plays in the NHL," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We have to be a lot sharper right off the bat. We have to work much harder and be harder on the pucks. Once [Detroit] gets the puck, they make very disciplined decisions."

The Sabres may have starting goaltender Ryan Miller back -- he dressed Friday as Jhonas Enroth's backup, the first time he's suited up since suffering a concussion on Nov. 12.The Sabres are 3-5-1 without him.

Predators: Nashville closed out a five-game road swing on a high note with a wild victory against Vancouver - the team that eliminated the Preds in the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Having blown a 3-1 lead and facing a 5-3 deficit late in the second period on Thursday, Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson scored to draw the Preds even at 5-5 and Mike Fisher won it with 1:16 left in regulation. Backup goaltender Anders Lindback, who relieved starter Pekka Rinne, stopped all 19 shots he faced for his second win in three decisions this season.

"[The Canucks] were taking it to us late and we just got one chance and buried it," Fisher said. "We're not used to those types of games. We're usually a 2-1, 1-0 type of group."

Who's Hot: After failing to score a goal in his first 19 games this season, Tootoo has reeled off three goals and three assists in his last six contests. … Hecht, who missed the first 20 games of the season due to a head injury, has scored a goal in three consecutive games for Buffalo.

Injury Report: Blake Geoffrion (arm/shoulder) is out indefinitely for Nashville and is not eligible for activation until next week. Francis Bouillon (groin) is day-to-day for the Predators, while Sergei Kostitsyn (upper-body) is questionable. … Nathan Gerbe took a skate to the face in Friday's game and did not return for the Sabres. Coach Lindy Ruff was unsure of Gerbe's availability for Saturday's game. Defensemen Jordan Leopold (upper body) and Tyler Myers (broken wrist) are still out.

Stat Pack: Craig Smith's three-assist showing for Nashville in Thursday's win at Vancouver made him just the fourth rookie in Predators history to tally three or more helpers in a game -- joining Dan Hamhuis (four assists on Mar. 4, 2004), Alexander Radulov (three on Dec. 23, 2006) and Cal O'Reilly (three assists on Feb. 6, 2010).

Puck Drop: After a four-game win streak from Nov. 4-11, the Sabres have failed to notch consecutive victories. With a quick turnaround before Saturday's game in Nashville, Thomas Vanek is ready to help his team right the ship.

"We've got to win a game, that's the bottom line," Thomas Vanek told "We've got to make a run here."

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