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Sabres-Senators Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

Associated Press

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Sabres-Senators Preview
Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, but could not get past the Buffalo Sabres in the playoffs.

Now Buffalo sits atop the standings but can't seem to beat Ottawa.

The Sabres are coming off a perfect four-game homestand as they go back on the road Wednesday looking to avoid falling to the Senators for a fourth straight time.

"I don't like to lose to them," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said after his team's 3-1 home loss to Ottawa on Dec. 16 in the most recent meeting.

"It gives them confidence. It's something we have to rectify as a team."

The Sabres (29-7-3) needed only five games to knock out the Senators (21-18-2) in last season's conference semifinals en route to the Stanley Cup finals. Buffalo has performed as if it could end up playing for the championship again this season, taking a big conference lead into the new year, but three of its seven losses in regulation have come against its Northeast Division rival.

Since losing 4-3 in the first meeting this season, the Senators have won the last three as they've scored two power-play goals in each game while killing off all but one of the Sabres' 17 extra-man chances.

"I think I owe them a bit for last year," said Senators goaltender Ray Emery, who allowed 15 goals in four playoff losses to the Sabres in May. "If you're not up to play these guys, they'll come back to bite you."

Emery has faced the Sabres three times this season and won them all, surrendering a total of four goals. He is 7-1-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average in nine career regular-season starts against them.

Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller has started twice against Ottawa this season and lost both, allowing seven goals.

However, Miller's recent play is a big reason Buffalo just completed a 4-0-0 homestand. He started every game in that stretch, allowing one goal in each of the last three.

"Ryan gives us a chance to win every night," Sabres center Paul Gaustad said. "He's solid, and one of those goaltenders who is always in the right place at the right time."

Gaustad ended a 17-game goal drought and Miller made 29 saves as Buffalo beat the New York Islanders 3-1 on Monday.

"We wanted to have a good homestand here because every game is important," Miller said. "We wanted to make a statement."

Buffalo scored at least one power-play goal in all four games of the homestand, and has not given one up in 16 short-handed situations over the past five games.

At 15-3-1, the Sabres easily have the league's best road record. They had won their first 10 games away from home this season before losing 4-1 at Ottawa on Nov. 18.

The Senators have not suffered a regulation loss in a season-high five straight games, though they lost 3-2 in overtime to Atlanta on Monday. They forced the extra period thanks to Tom Preissing's power-play goal with 3:55 left in the third period, during which they outshot the Thrashers 11-6.

"We definitely battled, and played the type of game we wanted to, as well," Emery said. "It's a frustrating one to lose, especially when you come back like that. At least we got a point out of it and there were some positive signs out there."

Emery had back-to-back shutouts before allowing two goals in regulation in each of his last two starts, and had a personal three-game win streak snapped Monday.

Ottawa leading scorer Dany Heatley has two goals and six assists in four meetings with Buffalo this season, though he enters this matchup having failed to score a goal in five consecutive games.

Buffalo's Thomas Vanek has four goals and two assists over his last four games, but has only one point in four meetings with Ottawa.

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
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%