The Buffalo Sabres have finally broken out of their scoring slump. The Ottawa Senators have not been in one all season.
The Eastern Conference finalists from last season meet for the second time in a week as the Sabres, coming off only their second win this month, try to knock off the league-best Senators on Wednesday in Buffalo.
Free agent departures Chris Drury and Daniel Briere were expected to hurt Buffalo's offense this season, and that certainly was the case recently. The Sabres (7-10-1) failed to score more than two goals in six consecutive games - totaling seven over that entire span - before beating Montreal 4-1 on Friday.
"Everybody knew that we were due for one of those," said forward Drew Stafford, who scored one of Buffalo's three first-period goals. "We have the talent and the skill for that. Guys can score."
The Senators (16-3-0) have plenty of guys who score, ranking among the league leaders with 61 goals and scoring at least three in all but four of their games.
Ottawa, leading the NHL with 32 points, was shut out for the first time this season with a 3-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday but bounced back two nights later to beat Montreal 4-2. The Senators have yet to lose two straight games.
"I think you concentrate on trying to win every game," Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "It's a nice thing to say that we don't want to lose two in a row. I remember Buffalo did the same thing last year."
The Sabres made it to mid-December last season before they lost back-to-back games. They've already had a trio of three-game losing streaks this season, including two this month as they've gone 2-5-1.
Buffalo is at the bottom of the Northeast Division after falling in five games in last season's conference finals to Ottawa, which has a seven-point lead atop the division.
The Sabres, though, are hoping their latest victory and the ensuing four-day break can help get things turned in the right direction. The league's highest-scoring team last season had gone nine straight games without even holding a lead in regulation.
"It's such a great feeling to get a big win like that," said Buffalo left wing Clarke MacArthur, who had his first career multigoal game. "We want to keep this going. It makes life a lot easier around here."
The Sabres' previous game, however, saw them lose 3-2 at Ottawa last Thursday as Alfredsson scored two goals.
Dany Heatley assisted on both of those goals, and keyed the Senators' most recent victory with a goal and two assists. His 24 points rank second on the team to Alfredsson's 26.
Trying to slow down the Senators will be Ryan Miller, expected to make his seventh straight start in net for Buffalo. Miller stopped 31 shots in last week's loss to Ottawa, and followed that with a 36-save performance against the Canadiens.
Miller has a 1.83 goals-against average in his last six starts, but has won only twice in that span.
"We've had some strong games, and this was a good step forward," Miller said after Friday's win. "Hopefully it starts the guys feeling good and knowing their effort can pay off."