BUFFALO (LGS) — Not 24 hours after a dramatic shootout victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night, the Buffalo Sabres are back at it again tonight as they face the Ottawa Senators at 7 p.m. inside the HSBC Arena (MSG-TV/WGR-AM). The game opens a season-high six-game homestand for Buffalo.
Losers of four straight to the Senators this season, the Sabres hope to mute critics with a win against their nemesis.
UPDATE: Martin Biron will get the start in net tonight. He led the Sabres to their lone victory against the Senators this season back on Oct. 7th.
In their 4-3 shootout triumph over the Thrashers Tuesday evening, the Sabres scored three power-play goals, including two by co-captain Daniel Briere. Briere also netted the eventual winning shootout goal as the Sabres moved to 8-2 in shootouts this season. The other shootout goal was scored by Ales Kotalik to ice the game and make it impossible for Atlanta to come back.
Rookie defenseman Nathan Paetsch added two more power-play assists and upped his total to six assists in his last six games. Thomas Vanek scored the other goal for Buffalo.
With the addition of Paetsch on the power play, Buffalo has scored a power-play goal in five of its last six games, the only exception Saturday’s 3-2 loss at New Jersey. This reality will make coach Lindy Ruff’s job hard leading up to game time, as injured defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed the last two games with a strained knee, is healed and expected to be in the lineup.
The option exists to move Paetsch to a forward position, but that would require scratching a forward as center Jiri Novotny has returned to game action following a high-ankle sprain.
The Senators, who haven’t played a game since a shootout loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night, look to exploit Buffalo’s schedule and catch the Sabres on an off night.
The Senators were trailing 2-0 Saturday in the third period before Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Comrie scored, mounting a comeback to tie the game before losing in the shootout.
The Sabres enter the game having won three of their last four games. However, they have been playing more down-to-earth since the beginning of the New Year, going 8-8-1 since the turn of the calendar.
Coincidentally, it was the Senators who created their current hardships.
When these two teams last met Jan. 3, Ottawa rolled over the Sabres 6-3. In that game, goaltender Ray Emery shined, stopping 33 of 36 Buffalo shots, including all 19 he faced in the first period. Superstar winger Dany Heatley scored the hat trick, including the game-winner, en route to the blowout.
Prior to the game, the Sabres had won four straight. Since the thrashing, the team hasn’t been the same. The Sabres are hoping that a resurgent power play will help them to defeat the Senators for the first time since the third game of the season.
This game marks the sixth meeting of the season between the two teams. They close out their regular season matchup with a home-and-home series with Buffalo hosting on Feb. 22 and Ottawa returning the favor on Feb. 24.
Phil Housley Night:
The Buffalo Sabres will honor former defenseman Phil Housley — the sixth overall pick of the 1982 NHL Entry Draft — by inducing him into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame prior to faceoff. Housley spent eight season in Buffalo, setting various team records. His 558 career points in Blue and Gold is in the Sabres' record book for most by a defenseman. In 1989-90, he set single-season records for assists (60) and points (81) by a Sabres' defenseman.