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Senators face must-win game vs. slumping Sabres

by John Kreiser

SABRES (15-33-8) at SENATORS (25-21-11)


Last 10: Buffalo 2-6-2; Ottawa 4-3-3

Season series: The Ottawa Senators have earned five of a possible six points against the Buffalo Sabres this season. Ottawa won the last meeting, 2-1 at Canadian Tire Centre on Dec. 12.

Big story: The Senators enter the game one point out of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and can't afford to lose to the 30th-place Sabres at home. They're back home and trying to build on one of their best wins of the season, a come-from-behind 5-4 shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Coach Ted Nolan knows his team isn't going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sabres are last in the overall standings and were beaten soundly by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, allowing five unanswered goals in a 5-1 home loss.

But Nolan said games like the one against the Penguins will help the Sabres find out which players they want to keep going forward.

"You find out who's in for the long haul and who wants to battle through difficult times," he said. "That's a good team. Give them that. But that doesn't stop you from trying to compete against them."

Senators: Ottawa is looking for a better result than the last time it beat the Blues; an emotional 3-2 overtime win on Dec. 16 was followed by three straight losses. Coach Paul MacLean, who gave his team the day off on Wednesday, certainly expects a solid effort in the final two games before the Olympic break.

"This is a big game when you can come into a building like this and win on the road," MacLean said after his young team overcame a 3-1 third-period deficit.

"It certainly should give us a lot of confidence heading home to play Buffalo with two games left before the break."

Who's hot: Drew Stafford has goals in each of Buffalo's past two games and six points in the past five. … Senators' captain Jason Spezza has seven points in Ottawa's past five games, including a goal and two assists in St. Louis.

Injury report: Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers (lower body) sat out Wednesday. ForwardsCody McCormick (upper body) and Matt Moulson (upper body) are on injured reserve. … Sabres defenseman Chris Phillips (undisclosed) and forward Mark Stone (upper body) didn't play Tuesday.

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