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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (31-15-3) at Atlanta Thrashers (23-23-6).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

A few days off during a long road trip and a struggling opponent may help the Buffalo Sabres continue their winning ways.

Buffalo will try to the hand the Atlanta Thrashers their sixth straight loss when the teams meet at Philips Arena.

Buffalo improved to 3-2 on its season-high six-game road swing with an 8-4 rout Thursday of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"The road's been a pretty tough place for most of the teams in this league," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff before the team departed Monday morning for Atlanta. "We just want to continue to push and continue to win these road games."

Rookie Thomas Vanek scored twice while Brian Campbell, Chris Drury, Jochen Hecht, Jay McKee and Jason Pominville each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres.

Buffalo will try for its third straight win for the first time since a season-high seven-game winning streak from Dec. 4-19.

With a four-day layoff between games, the Sabres were able to go back to Buffalo and rest.

"The good part is that it was broke up by getting home for a day before Toronto, and now home for a few more days," Ruff said. "It's now been broken down to a one-game trip, so it's a lot easier to digest."

The Sabres may see the return of forward Taylor Pyatt who was activated from injured reserve after missing 26 games with a fractured right wrist.

While the Sabres were relaxing, the Thrashers suffered a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Marc Savard scored a power-play goal in the third period for Atlanta.

"Our best players are simply not our best players right now, it's as simple as this," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.

Atlanta was outshot 27-18 by the Hurricanes and has been outscored 14-4 over the last four games. Leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk has been held without a point in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two months.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 23 shots against the Hurricanes, but lost his fourth in a row and dropped to 6-6 on the season.

Atlanta has not lost six in a row since Jan. 30-Feb. 11, 2004.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 65 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Northeast Division. Thrashers - 52 points, 3rd place, 24 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 19 goals; Teppo Numminen, 26 assists; Drury, 40 points; Andrew Peters, 53 PIM. Thrashers - Kovalchuk, 35 goals and 68 points; Savard, 43 assists; Andy Sutton, 100 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 22.0 percent (65 for 296), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (226 for 265), 3rd. Thrashers - Power play: 19.9 percent (71 for 356), 6th. Penalty killing: 79.0 percent (267 for 338), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (15-7-0, 2.26 GAA); Martin Biron (15-6-3, 2.98). Thrashers - Lehtonen (6-6-0, 1 SO, 2.79); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.79).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 30; Sabres, 4-1. At Buffalo, N.Y., Drury had a goal and an assist while Miller made 34 saves for the Sabres. Savard scored for Atlanta.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 16-8-1 on the road; Thrashers - 13-10-4 at home.


Associated Press

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