Sens aim to stop surging Sabres
Wednesday, 12.16.2009 / 7:30 PM
SABRES (20-9-2) at SENATORS (16-12-4)
Last 10 --
Buffalo 8-2-0; Ottawa 4-5-1
Season Series --
This is the second meeting this season between the Northeast Division rivals. Buffalo will host the next three games on Dec. 26, Feb. 3 and March 26 before the series concludes April 10 in Ottawa.
Big Story --
Senators' first-line center Jason Spezza
will miss four-to-six weeks with a right-knee injury that he incurred with 30 seconds left in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Spezza was hurt after a faceoff when Toronto's Lee Stempniak fell onto his leg.
Spezza is the Senators' fourth-leading scorer with five goals and 19 points. The injury occurred just when it appeared Spezza was breaking out of a season-long goal-scoring slump. He had only three goals in Ottawa's first 30 games but two in the last two games, including one against the Maple Leafs.
"I'm not doing too good," Spezza told the media after Tuesday's practice. "It was just the faceoff with 30 seconds left and the guy just kind of fell on the right side of my knee. I just felt something pop, kind of. I felt something and then I tried to get up and skate and I had no power."
Coach Cory Clouston said the team will know more about the injury after tests are done but he said it looked "fairly serious."
The Senators have called up Josh Hennessy, who has 10 goals and 24 points in 27 AHL games for Binghamton. He also has a plus-15 rating.
The defense-minded Sabres have opened a four-point lead in the Northeast Division by going 8-2 over their past 10 games, including victories in four straight. Goalie Ryan Miller has lowered his goals-against average to a league-leading 1.88 and also leads with a .937 save percentage. His four shutouts are tied for the NHL lead. Buffalo ranks 20th in goals-per-game and leading scorer Derek Roy's 25 points are tied for 45th in the NHL but they are third-best defensively, allowing only 2.19 goals per game.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
"got it" in his fifth NHL season, 1999-00, emerging as a point-a-game-or-better player in seven of the next eight seasons. He slipped to 0.94 points-per-game last season and is matching that number this year with nine goals and 21 assists in 32 games. He has only one goal in the past 12 games.
Who's Hot --
Ottawa's Mike Fisher
has a four-game scoring streak and four goals in the past six games. Nick Foligno
has five points and is plus-5 in six games since being benched Dec. 3. Alex Kovalev
, who had a hat trick Saturday, has seven points in the last seven games. ... Buffalo's Roy has nine points in the past nine games. Patrick Kaleta has three goals, including two shorthanded scores, in the past two games.
Injury Report --
Besides Spezza, Sens forward Chris Neil
hurt his knee Nov. 25 and has missed 10 games. Right wing Shean Donovan hurt his knee Nov. 19 and has missed 13 games. Goalie Pascal Leclaire
was struck in the cheekbone by a puck while sitting on the bench during the Nov. 23 game against Washington and has missed the past 12 games. He's due back later this month.
Sabres right wing Nathan Gerbe, last year's AHL Rookie of the Year, was called up Dec. 9, played two games and has sat the last two game with a groin injury. Center Paul Gaustad has been out since Nov. 28 with a knee injury. Defenseman Chris Butler hurt his ankle Dec. 5 and has missed six games.
Stat Pack --
Ottawa has the NHL's fourth-best home record, 11-4-3, while Buffalo has the 10th-best road record, 9-4-0. Ottawa averages 2.81 goals-per-game to Buffalo's 2.68 but gives up 2.91 goals to Buffalo's 2.19.
Puck Drop --
The Sabres don't score a lot, but they are very good defensively and they believe in their ability to win one-goal games. They are tied for second in the NHL with a .750 win percentage, 9-1-2, in one-goal games. They have won four of their past six games by one goal, including their last three games against Montreal, Chicago and the New York Rangers. The Sabres first three games this season were one-goal affairs, with Buffalo winning twice.
"There's been a big emphasis on it and the plays you need to make when the games are tight, the plays you need to make that won't allow the other teams to get the opportunities," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News.