BUFFALO (LGS) — In their second consecutive game against a Northwest division opponent, the Buffalo Sabres (38-15-4) look to accomplish something no squad of theirs has done in over a decade: win a home game against the Edmonton Oilers (28-25-4).
Edmonton skates in here in the exact opposite fashion that the Calgary Flames, Buffalo’s previous opponent, did. Whereas Calgary hasn’t defeated Buffalo in HSBC Arena, Edmonton hasn’t lost.
The Sabres look to end that streak tonight at 7 p.m. (MSG-TV/WGR-AM).
Since last winning at home against the Oilers on Oct. 18, 1995, Buffalo has been outscored 21-10, going 0-4-2. To the Sabres’ credit, Edmonton hasn’t faced off in Buffalo in over five years, meaning there have been very few chances to end the winless streak.
Buffalo was the first team in the league to achieve 80 points this season. Edmonton, meanwhile, has struggled this season and sits dead last in the tightly contested Northwest division, seven points back of the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Against Calgary on Saturday, the Sabres scored a late third-period goal to tie the score. Co-captain Daniel Briere scored with 3:32 left to play, and Ales Kotalik scored the lone shootout goal as the Sabres extended their home winning streak to five games.
Thomas Vanek also scored for the Sabres, giving him 29 goals on the season. That number is four goals higher than the total he scored all of last season and leaves him one shy of becoming the team’s second 30-goal scorer. The other co-captain, Chris Drury, already has 30 goals this season.
Ryan Miller made 23 saves and was perfect in the shootout, stopping all three shooters he faced. Kristian Huselius and David Moss scored for the Flames.
On the injury front, the Sabres will have to go Thursday without the services of Paul Gaustad and Jaroslav Spacek, both of whom are out long-term. Spacek broke his hand blocking a shot in the first period of the Calgary game and is expected to be out for at least two weeks. Gaustad severed a tendon in his ankle against Ottawa Feb. 7 and will be lost for the remainder of the season.
"These things happen," Briere said. "You look at last year when we had a lot of guys go down. ... Somebody's going to have to step up."
Both injuries have hurt a team already lacking in physical presence. The two could be considered the team’s most physical players at their respective positions.
And if the news couldn’t get any worse for the Sabres in terms of injuries, it was revealed Tuesday that concussed center Tim Connolly suffered a stress fracture in his leg and won’t be able to skate for 7-10 days. This setback comes on the heels of his beginning to practice with the team.
As for Edmonton, they come into tonight’s game looking to rebound from a 3-0 shutout loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
"And that was the start we didn't want," head coach Craig MacTavish said in frustration after the Oilers' fourth shutout loss this season. "Your margin of error is pretty fine defensively and from a discipline perspective when you don't score any goals."
Edmonton’s road record of 10-14-2 reflects how poorly they’ve played when away from Rexall Place. They have scored 54 goals on the road this season, which is the lowest among the 30 teams.
Former Sabres goalie Dwayne Roloson will likely get the start for the Oilers, while Miller will likely get the call for Buffalo. Roloson has never beaten his former team, going 0-3-1 against them.