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Sabres face Avalanche, shoot for seventh straight

by Brian Hunter
AVALANCHE (24-15-6) at SABRES (28-11-4)

Last 10:
Colorado 5-5-0; Buffalo 7-1-2

Season series:
This is the only meeting of the season between these teams. The Avalanche edged the Sabres 2-1 in a shootout on Oct. 25, 2008, in Colorado. Peter Budaj stopped 29 shots for the victory.

Big story:
Buffalo could take over the Eastern Conference lead by the end of Saturday night with a win over Colorado and a New Jersey loss in Montreal. With goaltender Ryan Miller tuning up for the Olympics by leading the League in save percentage, tying for the lead in shutouts, placing second in victories and holding down third in goals-against average, the Sabres are proving themselves to be a legitimate contender this season.

Team Scope:

This is the second stop on a three-game road trip for Colorado in a span of just four days. Carolina goalie Cam Ward stymied the Avalanche on Friday, shutting them out until Brandon Yip scored with 15.5 seconds remaining. Budaj played a strong game in net as well, stopping 18 shots, but a pair of goals by Ray Whitney proved too much to overcome.

"We've got to find a way to bury" the puck, coach Joe Sacco said. "We kept coming after them, especially in the second and third period. We just couldn't pull it behind them today."

Miller made a career-high 48 saves and rookie defenseman Tyler Myers scored a pair of power-play goals Friday as Buffalo won its sixth straight, holding on to edge Toronto by a 3-2 score.

Leafs GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson, who hold those same respective positions for Team USA, had commented earlier in the season that it looked as though Miller was putting on an audition with his play against their team. Well, Miller is now officially heading to the Olympics, but he hasn't stopped showing the men who will be his bosses there what he's capable of doing. And while he has nothing personal against Burke or Wilson, he wasn't hiding the animosity he feels toward anyone wearing a Leafs uniform.

"I really don't like them. They're a rival and they're in our division," said Miller, who has led Buffalo to 10 straight wins over Toronto. "They constantly talk about how they're going to rough me up every night. I love nothing more than to get a win against them and send them an hour-and-a-half on their way."

Who's hot:
Yip is the newest hotshot rookie in Colorado, posting four goals in his first nine NHL games. … Myers added an assist Friday for a three-point night. He has three goals and four assists in his last six games and is now fourth on Buffalo in scoring with 26 points.

Injury report:
Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles missed Friday's game due to flu-like symptoms. Defenseman Ruslan Salei (back) and Brett Clark (bruised cheekbone) and forwards David Jones (torn left ACL) and Marek Svatos (groin) are on injured reserve. … Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta has missed the last five games due to a leg injury.

Stat pack:
Buffalo has scored 22 goals during its win streak, an average of nearly four per game. … Conversely, Colorado comes in having dropped three of four, with only eight goals scored during that span.

Puck drop:
"I'm having the time of my life," said Myers, the No. 12 pick in last year's Entry Draft and the first Sabres defenseman with a multi-goal game since Jaroslav Spacek scored twice at Philadelphia on Feb. 19. "I was trying pretty hard for that third one, but more importantly we got the win."

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