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Senators-Sabres Preview

Saturday, 12.16.2006 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Senators-Sabres Preview
Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have suffered just five regulation losses this season, but two have come to the Ottawa Senators.

The Sabres look for a better showing Saturday when they host the slumping Senators in the fourth meeting between the Northeast Division rivals this season.

Buffalo (24-5-2) has an Eastern Conference-best 50 points this season, but has struggled to take many from Ottawa (16-16-1), dropping two of three matchups. The Sabres won an NHL-record 10 straight road games to open the season, but had that run snapped with a 4-1 defeat to the Senators in their last meeting on Nov. 18.

Buffalo has struggled on the power play against the Senators, going 1-for-18 in the three contests. The Sabres got a big goal with the man advantage Thursday when Maxim Afinogenov scored on the power play in the third period to lift the Sabres to a 2-1 victory over Florida.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, whose team is 4-for-50 on the power play over the last nine games. "We'll just keep working at it. You're going to have some valleys and some peaks. We're in a valley right now."

Buffalo was outshot 33-16 Thursday and has been outshot 99-73 over its last three games, but has still managed to win all of them. Ottawa, on the other hand, hasn't been as fortunate.

The Senators were outshot 33-22 Thursday en route to being shut out for the third time this season, 6-0 at Nashville. Ottawa fell to 1-4-0 without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has missed five straight games with a hip injury.

Before Alfredsson got hurt, the Senators had won eight of nine, with the right wing recording a point in each of those victories. Ottawa has also been without defenseman Wade Redden, who has been sidelined for seven games with chest and shoulder injuries.

"There is no doubt those guys are big players for us, but we are not going to make excuses," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "This is an opportunity for everyone to step up and have more responsibility, and we didn't do that."

Ottawa's Ray Emery has stepped up against Buffalo, going 6-1-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average in eight starts, but is coming off a dismal outing. He allowed six goals on 14 shots Thursday before getting pulled in favor of Martin Gerber, who is 3-4-0 with a 3.68 GAA against the Sabres.

Buffalo's Ryan Miller has been tough to solve this season, going 17-3-2 with a 2.59 GAA, but he's lost three of his last four starts against Ottawa.

Jason Spezza, who leads Ottawa with 23 assists and 40 points, has a seven-game point streak against Buffalo with three goals and seven assists in that span. Dany Heatley, who hasn't registered a point in a season-high four straight games, has five points against the Sabres this season.

The Senators are concluding a four-game road trip while the Sabres are playing the second of three straight games at home, where they are 5-0-1 in their last six contests.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 24 '07BUF 5 at OTT 6J. Spezza
Feb 22 '07OTT 5 at BUF 6 - SOD. Stafford
Feb 07 '07OTT 2 at BUF 3T. Vanek
Jan 03 '07BUF 3 at OTT 6D. Heatley
Dec 16 '06OTT 3 at BUF 1J. Spezza
Nov 18 '06BUF 1 at OTT 4D. Heatley
Nov 15 '06OTT 4 at BUF 2P. Schaefer
Oct 07 '06BUF 4 at OTT 3J. Pominville
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