Consecutive wins and the return of their captain have the Buffalo Sabres feeling good about themselves. Optimism, meanwhile, is in very short supply right now for the Ottawa Senators.
The Sabres try to end a four-game home losing streak to the Senators on Tuesday night when the Northeast Division rivals meet for the second time this season.
With one win in a recent five-game stretch, Buffalo (19-15-5) was struggling to remain among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference before winning back-to-back road contests against Toronto and Boston.
Jason Pominville and Derek Roy each scored twice in the Sabres' 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on New Year's Day before Buffalo became the first team to win at Boston since October with a 4-2 victory on Saturday.
Recent call-up Matt Ellis scored his second and third goals of the season and Thomas Vanek added his 26th goal as the Sabres ended the East-leading Bruins' 14-game home win streak and their 10-game overall run.
"We played well. We (treated this) as a playoff game," Vanek said. "Boston's right now one of the, if not the hottest teams. To come in their building and get two points is big for our hockey club right now. I think we slowed them down."
Buffalo should get a lift Tuesday with the return of captain Craig Rivet, who has missed 11 straight games since injuring his shoulder during a 3-2 loss at Montreal on Nov. 29.
"With our last two games now I'm wondering how I'm going to get back in the lineup," Rivet told the Sabres' official Web site. "The guys have put the work in, they did a lot of great things in our last couple games that we are going to want to build off of."
While Rivet is expected back in the lineup, struggling right wing Maxim Afinogenov will be out for "a little while," according to coach Lindy Ruff.
Afinogenov, who has only two goals in 34 games this season, injured his groin when he was checked by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara on Saturday.
Coming off two straight strong starts, Buffalo's Ryan Miller looks to reverse his fortunes against the Senators. He is 7-10-0 with a 3.21 goals-against average in 18 games versus Ottawa.
Miller isn't the only member of the Sabres that struggles against the Senators, who are 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings, including a 5-2 victory at Buffalo on Oct. 27. Ottawa has won four straight at HSBC Arena, scoring at least five goals in each game.
This will be the seventh stop on an eight-game road trip for the Senators, who dropped to 1-4-1 on the trek with Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey.
Ottawa failed to win despite taking three one-goal leads and fell to 3-8-2 in its last 13 overall games.
"I think the mood, considering everything, is pretty positive among the coaches and players," coach Craig Hartsburg told the Senators' official Web site. "We've got to continue to try to get points and tomorrow is the next day we have to worry about."
Although Alex Auld is 0-4-2 with 4.60 GAA in his last six starts, he is expected back in net for the Senators. That seems like a wise decision since Auld is 5-0-2 with a 1.97 GAA in seven career starts against the Sabres.