The Atlanta Thrashers will make a second attempt within a month to set a record for the longest winning streak in franchise history. The Buffalo Sabres seek to avenge a loss, though, that ended their chance to have a record-setting streak of their own.
The Thrashers hope they can win their sixth straight game and knock off the Eastern Conference leaders for the second time in as many tries this season when they visit the Sabres on Saturday.
Atlanta (23-10-6) beat Buffalo for the third consecutive time with a 5-4 shootout victory at home on Oct. 28. The Thrashers denied the Sabres a chance to set the NHL record for the most consecutive wins to open a season, forcing Buffalo (27-7-3) to share the record with the 1993 Maple Leafs at 10.
The Thrashers, the Southeast Division leaders, look to avoid the same reversal of momentum they experienced when they first attempted to set this franchise record. They had a five-game win streak snapped with an 8-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Dec. 7, beginning a five-game skid that preceded this run. Atlanta had only experienced one shutout loss more lopsided since the franchise began in 1999-2000.
"We're feeling really good right now - all three phases, the forwards, defensemen and goalies are playing well," said Thrashers left wing Slava Kozlov, the only player who scored in the shootout in the teams' only meeting this season. "We're not making mistakes, and that's the thing we need with guys like (Marian) Hossa and Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk), you know we're going to score goals. The difference is we're not making mistakes."
The Thrashers have scored at least four goals in all but one of their last five games, but visit the NHL's highest-scoring team.
Hossa has two goals and eight assists - with only one non-multipoint performance - in the last five games. Kozlov has scored once in each of the last four games and added two assists in that stretch.
"Everyone's chipping in," Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen said.
So is Lehtonen. He stopped 35 shots in a 4-2 win on Wednesday at Pittsburgh, and has not allowed more than three goals in any outing during the five-game win streak while posting a .936 save percentage.
Lehtonen is 3-2 with a 2.95 goals-against average in five starts against Northeast Division-leading Buffalo.
"The way our goalie's playing right now, that's the main thing," Kozlov said. "He's giving us a chance to win in every game."
Ryan Miller gave the Sabres that chance by making 29 saves in the Sabres' 4-1 win over Carolina on Thursday, allowing a short-handed goal with 1:09 left. Miller helped Buffalo enter the second period in a scoreless tie after the team was outshot 10-1 in the first 20 minutes.
"We cheated everyone in that first period. It was very disappointing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We weren't ready to play."
Ruff's team is 3-0-1 in its last four games, outscoring the opposition 19-9. The Sabres have killed off all nine of their short-handed situations over the past three games.
Atlanta did not score on any of its eight power plays over the previous two games before going 2-for-6 on Wednesday.