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Sabres big test for Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The high-flying Buffalo Sabres have yet to lose a game this season in regulation time.

But the Senators have much more on their minds than the Sabres' gaudy 6-0-2 record, which tops the Northeast Division and is nine points in front of visiting Ottawa (2-5-1) heading into tonight's matchup at HSBC Arena in Buffalo (7 p.m., NHL Network, Team 1200).

"We have to really worry about our own game now," Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg said after Monday's pre-game skate. "We'll talk about some things about Buffalo, but our game is still a work in progress and we have to continue to improve in all areas.

"But the biggest focus right now for us is to clean up our end, and if we can do that, we'll be a better team."

Up front, the Senators will have a new look again as they seek to end a four-game losing streak. Antoine Vermette has been moved up to the top line alongside centre Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, while Daniel Alfredsson and Nick Foligno will flank Mike Fisher on the second unit. The other two combos are: Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Chris Neil and Shean Donovan-Dean McAmmond-Jesse Winchester.

"We certainly would like to get some guys producing a little more," said Hartsburg. "Even before that, it's how we play that's going to allow that to happen. We've got to be a lot better defensively. From the blue line back in our end, moving the puck, defending... If we're better in those areas, we have a chance to create more up ice."

Hartsburg knows a formidable test awaits his team tonight against the Sabres, who have only allowed 15 goals in eight starts this season.

"(The Sabres) move the puck extremely well from the back end," he said. "They've got guys who do that very well. But as a team, they've done a really good job of defending and frustrating people. When you do that, you turn pucks over and all of a sudden you score."

Around the boards

Martin Gerber (pulled leg muscle) went on the ice with goaltending coach Eli Wilson after the pre-game skate but won't dress tonight. Brian Elliott will serve as the backup to Alex Auld, who'll make his third straight start. "(Gerber) just came on after practice to get some shots and see how he feels," said Hartsburg. "I think he's feeling better. I think the thing we want to see is how he does when he's out on the ice." ... Luke Richardson is a healthy scratch for the second straight game, with Christoph Schubert again part of the defence corps ... The Senators head off to Florida after tonight's game to finish off their road trip. They'll face the Panthers on Thursday in Sunrise, Fla., and then take on the Lighting on Saturday in Tampa ... Buffalo will be named this afternoon as the host city for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. This year's tournament runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre.

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