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Sabres' postseason chase continues vs. Senators

by Deborah Francisco
SENATORS (20-31-9) AT SABRES (28-25-6)


Last 10 --
Ottawa 3-6-1; Buffalo 5-4-1

Season series -- The Sabres and Senators have already met four times this season and Buffalo has prevailed in three of those meetings. Their final two meetings will both be played in Buffalo. The Sabres edged the Senators 1-0 on Dec. 4 and 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 25. Shaone Morrisonn notched the game-winner in their last meeting at the 1:59 mark in the extra frame.

Big story -- New hope was kindled for both the Senators and the Sabres last week as each club debuted a new face. The Senators have been pleasantly surprised with the performance of goaltender Craig Anderson, who was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 18. Anderson is 2-0-0 with Ottawa so far, including a 47-save shutout in his Senators debut on Feb. 19 in a 1-0 shootout win over the Maple Leafs. The Sabres, meanwhile, are just three points away from the eighth seed in the East and the Feb. 22 announcement of long-time Sabres fan Terry Pegula as the new owner of the team has bolstered excitement over what the future holds for the Sabres.

"Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup," Pegula said.

Team Scope:

Senators -- Ottawa may be riding on the floor of the Eastern Conference standings with 49 points on the season, but the club could be making a late season turnaround. In fact, Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the Panthers completed the Senators' first set of back-to-back wins in the entire 2011 calendar year. Anderson played a key role in that victory, turning aside 23 shots in the game. Anderson has allowed just one goal on 71 shots since joining the Senators.

"It was an experience to remember … I found a way to do the job and the guys did a good job in front of me to allow me to get that first win," Anderson said.
Also, Bobby Butler notched his first career multi-goal game with his two tallies against Florida. The victory ended a 10-game home losing streak for the Senators. They move on without the services of Alex Kovalev on the right wing, as he was sent to Pittsburgh on Thursday in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2011 Entry Draft.

Sabres -- Buffalo came up big in a crucial match against Atlanta on Wednesday night as both clubs are chasing the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Not only did Buffalo come away with the two points in the 4-1 win, but they did it with a flourish to make their new owner proud.

Ryan Miller made 40 saves and Tyler Myers had a goal and an assist to pace the Sabres to the important victory. Pegula received a minute-long standing ovation from the enthusiastic home crowd the start of the game.

"I had a great time," Pegula said.

"You definitely get energy from having him around," Miller said of the new owner. "It's nice to see him happy with the effort."

Who's hot -- Both netminders came out with spectacular performances this week with Miller’s 40-save show on Wednesday and Anderson’s 37-save performance last Saturday.

Injury report --
Sabres forward Derek Roy suffered a season-ending leg injury but the rest of the team is healthy. … For the Senators, defenseman Sergei Gonchar remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Captain Daniel Alfredsson (lower back) and centre Peter Regin (left shoulder) also remain out.

Stat pack --
Anderson went 89 minutes, 18 seconds into his Ottawa career before allowing his first goal.

Puck drop --
Thomas Vanek wore the "A" on his sweater for the first time in his career last Wednesday night. The 27-year-old Vanek has spent his entire six-season NHL career with the Sabres and he boasts a team-best 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists).

"I just think it's time for Thomas to be that leader, be recognized. It's the point of his career where he's our leading scorer and you hear his voice in the room now, and I think it's important that some of the leadership falls on his shoulders," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

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