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GAME: Ottawa Senators (47-15-6) at Buffalo Sabres (44-19-5).
TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.
The stumbling Buffalo Sabres have had plenty of trouble against the Ottawa Senators this season. Catching them for the Northwest Division title might be equally difficult.
The Sabres look to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season as they try to gain ground on the Eastern Conference-leading Senators.
"We're not happy with the way we've played against them, there's no disguising that," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "We need to make a statement."
The Sabres have squared off against Ottawa five times this season, but has managed only one shootout victory while losing the other four meetings by a combined 25-7 score. The Senators won 4-2 on Saturday in the most recent meeting, riding an early two-goal lead to end Buffalo's eight-game winning streak.
"They're like us. If they get the first goal, it's hard for us to come back," Ottawa's Jason Spezza said. "They try to play us tight. We have to open the game up against them."
The most recent matchup triggered a three-game slide for the Sabres, dropping them seven points behind the Senators after pulling within a point as recently as last weekend. Buffalo's only other losing streak of more than two games all season was a four-game skid from Nov. 2-9.
The Senators, meanwhile, have won three straight and are 10-1-1 since March 1 despite being without injured goaltender Dominik Hasek.
"It is a big game and it would be a big win for us," Ruff said. "The message is, we've got to give them the biggest battle we can give them."
Buffalo lost 4-3 to the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. However, the Sabres picked up some momentum, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period.
"Our opponent who is coming in here next has been very tough on us. We're going to rebound," Ruff said. "Is it going to be Friday? I hope, but that's a monumental task against a team that's been going really well."
The Senators became the first team from the East to reach 100 points with a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Daniel Alfredsson scored his career-high 38th goal and assisted on another, and Antoine Vermette scored Ottawa's NHL-best 21st short-handed goal. The Senators, who have won 11 of 13, also got three power-play goals and improved to 9-0-2 when leading after two periods.
While Ottawa may be missing injured defensemen Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov, the Sabres definitely will be without forwards Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht.
Connolly and Hecht, who have combined for 86 points this season, will miss at least another two games because of knee injuries.
STANDINGS: Senators - 100 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Sabres - 93 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Dany Heatley, 39 goals; Spezza, 54 assists; Heatley and Alfredsson, 86 points; Chris Neil, 159 PIM. Sabres - Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek, 24 goals; Maxim Afinogenov and Teppo Numminen, 36 assists; Afinogenov, 54 points; Andrew Peters, 77 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 20.7 percent (85 for 411), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.4 percent (355 for 411), 2nd. Sabres - Power play: 21.1 percent (86 for 408), 2nd. Penalty killing: 85.8 percent (314 for 366), 3rd.
GOALTENDERS: Senators - Ray Emery (19-5-2, 3 SO, 2.59 GAA); Mike Morrison (10-4-2, 2.83). Sabres - Ryan Miller (25-10-2, 2.51); Martin Biron (18-7-3, 2.94).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 4-1.
LAST MEETING: Saturday; Senators, 4-2. At Ottawa, Peter Schaefer and Bryan Smolinski each had a goal and an assist for the Senators, who outshot the Sabres 49-22.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 21-9-5 on the road; Sabres - 23-9-3 at home.