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Special Teams Battle

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres

January 2, 2007

by Brian Wheeler

The Buffalo Sabres penalty kill has been rejuvenated with the return of Henrik Tallinder, who missed 24 games with a broken arm.

Buffalo has killed 17 consecutive penalties heading into Wednesday night's contest against the wounded Ottawa Senators (MSG, 7:30 p.m.), and they are going to need their special teams to continue to operate at a high level.

"You're going to see the same type of game [as the other four meetings]," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "The area we've been beat in, and beat pretty handily, has been special teams. If we are going to win the game, we have to be the team that comes out on top."

Power-play goals seemingly fall from the heavens when Ottawa takes on the Sabres. The only team in the league to defeat Buffalo three times this season, Ottawa has scored on 22 per cent of their power plays in four meetings.

Remove Buffalo's lone victory against their Northeast Division rivals, a 4-3 road win in the third game of the season, and Ottawa's rate of success with the man advantage skyrockets to 31.6 per cent.

The Senators have converted on six-of-19 opportunities, while holding Buffalo to just one for 17 with the man advantage in the last three meetings, all Senators victories.

"We've done a good job [on the penalty kill]," said Ruff, whose team hasn't allowed a power play goal since Jason Arnott's eighth of the season at 3:02 of the third period on Dec. 21.

"We done a good job on entries and forced teams to dump the puck in. On retrievals, we've put on a lot of pressure. When teams have gotten set up, we've been a little more passive up top and really aggressive down low."

Momentum can be generated when you're at home and that's exactly what Buffalo did with their most recent home stand. The Sabres are riding a four-game winning streak where the team has outscored their opponents, 17-6.

"[The Senators] are a very tough team to beat, especially in their building," said Paul Gaustad. "We're going to have to take everything that we've generated in these last four games to beat them."

Injuries have become an increasingly large concern for the Senators. When Buffalo travels to the Scotiabank Place, Ottawa will be without the services of Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher.

Spezza is a particularly big blow, as he leads all Senators scorers in the season series. The Toronto, Ont.-native has scorched Buffalo with five goals off just 10 shots and seven points in four games. Three of Spezza's five goals have come with the man advantage.

"I know he's out and he's been a killer for us," said Ruff concerning Spezza. "But at the same time, they are playing really well without him. They are a team that has some key injuries but continue to find a way to win.

"They still have plenty of skill. They've got [Dany] Heatley and [Daniel] Alfredsson, along with some younger players that are going to play more."

Ottawa saw their four-game winning streak ended on New Year's Day. Former disgruntled Sabre, Slava Kozlov scored his second goal of the game at 1:48 of overtime to lead the Atlanta Thrashers to a 3-2 win over the Sens.

With pieces missing from their roster, Ottawa looked outside Canada's capital for assistance. According to TSN, the Senators attempted to claim Petr Nedved off waivers on Tuesday morning, only to see the veteran center snatched away by the Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton trials the Senators in the league standings, and therefore, holds waiver priority.

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