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Sabres try to snap slump against Flames

by Davis Harper

FLAMES (5-5-1) at SABRES (6-5-0)

TV: SNET-West (HD), MSG-B (HD)

Last 10 : Calgary 5-4-1; Buffalo 5-5-0

Season Series: This is the only game between the two this season. In their lone meeting last season, the Flames throttled the Sabres 5-2 in Calgary on Dec. 27 as five different players scored goals.

Big Story: This inter-conference matchup should provide an interesting test for two teams searching for consistent success as the regular season starts to heat up. After looking strong on a 4-1-0 road swing, Buffalo has lost two of three on its current four-game homestand. Calgary enters Friday winners of three of four, including a 4-1 win in Detroit on Thursday night that came two nights after the Flames' worst performance of the season, a 5-1 home loss to Vancouver.

Team Scope:

Flames: It was a rebound night for the Flames in Detroit -- especially for the defense and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. The defense blocked 20 shots and Kiprusoff stopped all but one of the 29 that got through.

"It's part of what we're about and when we do it the right way we're successful," coach Brent Sutter said. "Part of being a good defense is you've got to be a good blocked-shot team. There's a price you've got to pay to do that and it's something we address and talk about as a group. We certainly had it tonight."

In their five wins, Calgary has allowed just six goals.

Sabres: Buffalo has played five one-goal games and lost four of them. Whether it's allowing early strikes -- Philadelphia scored twice in the first two minutes in Wednesday's 3-2 loss -- or late-game daggers -- the game before, Florida scored on a power play with two minutes to go to break a third-period tie in another 3-2 loss -- the Sabres just can't seem to keep it together for a full 60 minutes.

"That's it," a dejected coach Lindy Ruff said after the loss to the Flyers. "Until we play a complete 60 minutes, or even something close to that, you won't win. When you deserve to win, you win. We deserved to get back in the game, because we worked hard in the second and third, but we didn't deserve to win."

Who's Hot: After going 2-2-4 in October, Flames captain Jarome Iginla appears to be finding hid groove. Iginla had two goals and an assist in Detroit and has matched his October production in the first two games of November.

Injury Report: Flames forward Mikael Backlund has been on IR since the beginning of the season with a broken finger. … Buffalo's Tyler Ennis is out for another week or two with a sprained ankle, and Jochen Hecht (concussion) has yet to play this season.

Stat Pack: If defense wins championships, the Flames are headed in the right direction. Calgary gave up its first road power-play goal of the season Thursday in Detroit, when Danny Cleary bounced an errant puck off his chest into an empty net. The Flames had previously killed 13 straight man-advantages.

Puck Drop: Sabres fans held their breath when talisman Thomas Vanek left the ice Wednesday with a gash above his right eye. Twenty minutes later, Vanek returned with stitches. Buffalo is lucky the incident wasn't more serious -- the Austrian leads the way with eight goals and eight assists entering Friday's game.

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