Season Series: Second of six meetings this season, and second in seven days between these Northeast Division rivals. It took six rounds of a shootout, but Buffalo won 3-2 in Ottawa last Saturday when Derek Roy put the puck past Craig Anderson. Roy and Jordan Leopold had regulation goals for the Sabres, while Milan Michalek and Erik Condra scored for the Senators.
Big Story: Buffalo has won three straight and is pushing Toronto for the division lead, but there could be a bit of a goaltending controversy brewing. Ryan Miller is a past Vezina Trophy winner and Olympic star, but he recently suffered a personal four-game losing streak and turned in a less-than-convincing performance in a win Tuesday, allowing five goals on 31 shots. Meanwhile, backup Jhonas Enroth has won all four of his starts with a 1.41 goals-against average and .952 save percentage, improving to 13-3-2 in his brief NHL career.
Senators: During its six-game winning streak to end the month of October, Ottawa scored 23 goals, an average of nearly four per game. Since then, the Senators have averaged two goals in an 0-3-1 slump that continued with Wednesday's 3-2 home loss to the Rangers. Captain Daniel Alfredsson has been absent from the lineup dating back to the final game of the win streak due to a concussion, but he took the morning skate Wednesday and expects to play tonight in Buffalo.
"I think (the results) were good," said Alfredsson, who passed his baseline exam and has met the NHL protocol for returning to action. "I was happy with what I did, so I don't think it's an issue at all … I'm just going to take it one day at a time and we'll go from there."
Sabres: At the end of the season it's the top eight teams from each conference that make the playoffs and nobody questions how you compiled the points, so Buffalo isn't going to apologize for the fact its 6-5 overtime win over Winnipeg on Tuesday didn't exactly follow the normal Lindy Ruff blueprint. The Sabres had to rally from deficits of 2-0, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 before finally prevailing on Thomas Vanek's second power-play goal of the game with 25 seconds left in overtime. Roy also had a pair of power-play tallies to overcome Miller's shaky performance.
"Obviously, we all know that Ryan needs to be better. He was fighting it, there's no doubt," Ruff said. "But I liked the fight the team put up. That's even more important than the fight that Ryan was putting up."
Who's Hot: Michalek has goals in consecutive games for the Senators and his 10 goals entering Thursday were tied for second in the league, one behind Phil Kessel of the Maple Leafs … Vanek reached 10 goals with his pair on Tuesday. Jason Pominville, the Sabres' leading scorer, had a goal and a pair of assists. His 18 points were fourth in the league heading into Thursday's action. Roy is suddenly hot after a slow start, recording three goals and two assists during a three-game point streak.
Injury Report:Chris Neil, who suffered an ankle injury in Wednesday's loss to the Rangers, didn't travel with the team and won't play tonight in Buffalo or Saturday in Toronto ... Defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) and forward Peter Regin (shoulder) remain on injured reserve … Buffalo forward Ville Leino and defenceman Tyler Myers are day-to-day with undisclosed ailments. Forwards Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Third-year Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson entered Thursday tied with Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Lightning for the lead among defenseman with 13 assists … The Sabres won two-thirds of their faceoffs against the Jets, with Pominville and Paul Gaustad combining to go 27-7 on draws.
Puck Drop: Though he's never previously dealt with a concussion, Alfredsson doesn't plan to alter his style or ease himself back into the mix slowly against the Sabres.
"I'm not going to be cautious," he said. "You've got to be aware at all times on the ice — I've said that before and it's the same (now). If you don't feel you're ready, then you shouldn't start playing again. I feel confident in my reaction time and whatnot, so I'll just try to play as normal."