Hurricanes-Sabres Preview

The Buffalo Sabres are enduring a rough stretch in which they’ve

had trouble containing some of the top players in the NHL.

They’ll try to avoid losing three straight in regulation for the

first time all season Friday night when they face another major

threat in Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Buffalo (32-16-7) is 2-5-1 in its last eight games, and a 5-2

loss at Vancouver on Jan. 25 was the start of a disturbing trend

against star players. The Sedin brothers combined for four points

in that win for the Canucks.

The Sabres have had trouble the last two games as well, allowing

Sidney Crosby to record a hat trick in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on

Monday and yielding two goals apiece to Jason Spezza and Daniel

Alfredsson in a 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday.

“We’ve made notes of that, too, that we wanna stop these guys,

not give them rush chances and not give their top guys chances,”

center Tim Connolly said. “But I mean, you just want to limit them

as much as you can.”

A key to beating Carolina (19-30-7) could be slowing down Staal,

who enters with nine goals and six assists during a career

high-tying 10-game point streak. All nine of those goals have come

in the eight games since Staal was elevated to captain over Rod

Brind’Amour on Jan. 21.

Buffalo held Staal without a point in a 5-1 victory Nov. 28 in

the lone meeting this season. Rookie defenseman Tyler Myers had

three assists during the Sabres’ five-goal third period.

Both teams are entering after poor efforts on the power play.

The Sabres went 0 for 4 against the Senators.

“There’s no doubt, I thought our power play struggled tonight,”

coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had two of them when we had good zone

time but we didn’t generate the opportunities. We missed nets, we

had key opportunities to put some pucks in some better places and

we didn’t.”

Staal scored on the power play Wednesday in a 4-1 loss at

Calgary, but the Hurricanes finished 1 for 9.

“We just didn’t get enough on the power play,” Staal said. “We

got one, but it would have been nice to get a few more.”

Carolina has scored at least once with the man advantage in five

consecutive road games, going 8 for 26. Buffalo, though, hasn’t

allowed a power-play goal in any of its last six home games.

Buffalo went 9-0-3 in 12 home games before Wednesday’s defeat.

Connolly and Andrej Sekera scored to help the Sabres rally from a

2-0 deficit in the third period before they conceded two goals in

the final minute.

“We battled hard in the third to get back in it,” Ruff said.

“The best description is we just found another way to lose a

game.”

Carolina, meanwhile, began a four-game trip this week on a

season-high, four-game win streak. The momentum has not carried

over, losing 4-2 to lowly Edmonton on Monday before falling to the

Flames.

“We could sit … and moan about how poorly we played, but

Calgary played a good game,” coach Paul Maurice said.