Back from a stellar road trip, the Ottawa Senators look to continue their surge while facing a team they’ve often fared well against at home or away of late.
Riding a season-high, seven-game point streak, the Senators seek a sixth consecutive home win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Rookie Andrew Hammond made 35 saves and Kyle Turris had a goal and an assist as Ottawa (28-23-11) capped a 4-0-1 trip with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory at Winnipeg. Amid a 6-0-1 stretch, the Senators are making a serious push to move into playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
"It’s just hard work from everyone on the team," Hammond told the NHL’s official website. "Obviously we have that special feeling now, and I feel like it’s carrying over (from game to game) where it doesn’t matter the team we’re playing. We feel like we (can) hang in there and play and be successful."
With Hammond in net throughout the surge, the Senators own a 21-9 goal advantage and have killed 17 of 18 penalties. Replacing the injured tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, Hammond’s recorded a 1.13 goals-against average, but it’s uncertain if he will get the nod in this opener of a three-game homestand.
Originally scheduled Wednesday to make his first appearance since Jan. 21, Anderson was scratched because his injured hand wasn’t ready. Anderson has a 1.43 GAA during a nine-game winning streak versus Buffalo (19-40-5), but even if he’s able to return, it might be tough to sit Hammond.
"We can’t say enough good things about (Hammond)," said Turris, who has six goals and eight assists in 11 games. "We love him. He is playing great."
Regardless, the Senators are only focused on maintaining their solid play.
"We’re starting to play the right way and get rewarded for the work we’ve put in in the past few months," said forward Erik Condra, who had a goal Wednesday and has one with four assists during a four-game home point streak.
Looking for a third straight win against the Sabres this season, Ottawa has earned at least one point in the last seven overall meetings (5-0-2) and outscored them 16-8 during a five-game home winning streak that’s part of its 6-0-4 series stretch there.
Buffalo will try to avoid dropping the first three on a five-game trip after Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Tampa Bay. Though point leader Tyler Ennis returned from missing two games with a lower-body injury, the Sabres were blanked after recording 13 goals to win two of the previous three.
After trading away forwards Chris Stewart, Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell on Monday, and still minus injured All-Star Zemgus Girgensons (foot), the Sabres are giving their untested youth some experience while getting through the final weeks of a third straight losing season.
”I’m the senior guy. These kids are young men,” coach Ted Nolan said. ”Before they know it, their careers are going to be over, so our job is to make sure that they stay focused and become the best players they can under the most difficult situation.”
Ennis has been held to three of his 15 goals in his last 15 contests. He scored in two straight at Ottawa before going without a point in a 5-2 loss there Dec. 29.
Bobby Ryan scored three of his four goals against the Sabres this season during that home win. He’s recorded three goals and eight assists in the last 10 games.