SABRES (44-26-10) at SENATORS (44-31-6)
Buffalo 6-4-0; Ottawa 7-2-1
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Northeast Division rivals. Ottawa will aim for a sweep of the 2009-10 series and its 10th straight win overall over Buffalo since the Sabres last tasted victory on Jan. 6, 2009. Senators goalie Brian Elliott stopped 41 shots in the most recent matchup, a 4-2 win at HSBC Arena on March 26.
It's already known that Buffalo will finish the Northeast Division and that Ottawa will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs. What has yet to be determined is whether the Sabres or the Atlantic Division winner (either the Devils or Penguins) will be the No. 2 seed. Home ice in the second round could hinge on that distinction, so the Sabres have incentive to play hard this weekend.
Two regular-season games remain for Buffalo, which plays in New Jersey on Sunday. The Sabres begin play Saturday one point behind the Devils and Penguins, each of whom also have two games left to play. The Sabres controlled their destiny in the race for the No. 2 seed until they lost 3-1 on Thursday to the Bruins, who desperately needed the points in attempting to cling to one of the final playoff berths in the East.
"They played hard tonight," said forward Derek Roy
, who scored the lone Buffalo goal. "They needed these points. They came out hard and we didn't come out as hard as we wanted to. We still got the lead, but we ran into penalty trouble, and our power play we didn't execute the way we wanted to."
One of the more difficult teams to gauge entering the postseason, Ottawa has suffered through five-game losing streaks twice this season and immediately followed them up with a franchise-record 11-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak. The Senators have alternated wins and losses to begin the month of April, rallying from a three-goal deficit against the Lightning before falling 4-3 in a shootout in their most recent game on Thursday.
"It was nice to see us battle back in a game that doesn't mean anything for us," captain Daniel Alfredsson
said. "We showed some character and we had enough chances to win it."
Roy has goals in consecutive games for the Sabres and has registered six goals and three assists in his last seven games. Tyler Ennis
has two goals and five assists in seven games since being called up in late March.
Mike Fisher has three goals in his last two games for the Senators. Jason Spezza
has seven goals and 12 assists in his last 11 games. Rookie defenseman Erik Karlsson
has four goals and eight assists in his last nine games.
Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek
is battling a lower-body injury but likely to play. Defenseman Craig Rivet is questionable with flu-like symptoms. Forwards Patrick Kaleta
(thumb) and Jochen Hecht
(upper body) hope to return to the lineup early in the playoffs. Forward Tim Connolly (foot) is out indefinitely.
Ottawa forward Alex Kovalev (leg) is day-to-day, while defenseman Filip Kuba
(back) is out indefinitely.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
stopped 30 shots against the Rangers on Tuesday to record his second career 40-win season (2006-07). … Karlsson, who doesn't turn 20 until May 31, played a career-high 29 minutes Thursday, including a team-high 10:37 of power-play time.
The Senators will pay tribute to Alfredsson prior to the game for playing in his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the week. Saturday has also been proclaimed Daniel Alfredsson
Day by Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien.