Using a pair of unproven goaltenders until Craig Anderson
returns from a finger injury, the Ottawa Senators knew they would
have to raise their play offensively to maintain their playoff
Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek have done just that as they try
to lead the Senators to a third straight victory as they host the
Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
The Senators (36-25-8) are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games
following a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday
night. Four players scored for Ottawa, which overcame an early
deficit and got 25 saves from Ben Bishop – acquired from St. Louis
before the trade deadline – in his home debut.
“Benny’s played great. Last game he played real good,” said
Spezza, whose empty-net goal sealed the win. “You could tell he was
real calm tonight, you’re always a little more comfortable playing
at home and he was real big for us, made some big saves at the
right time and did a great job.”
Spezza, whose 73 points lead the team, has nine goals and 13
assists during Ottawa’s surge. The Senators are one point behind
New Jersey for sixth in the Eastern Conference and three back of
Boston for the Northeast Division lead, though the Devils have two
games in hand on them and the Bruins have three.
Offense has been the key to the Senators’ recent run, with the
team scoring 51 goals in the last 13 games after being held to nine
during a seven-game losing streak preceding its turnaround.
Michalek, who has a team-high 32 goals, has contributed nine goals
and nine assists during the hot streak.
“I think we’ve had a balanced attack all year long,” coach Paul
MacLean said. “The rhythm of our offense has been pretty good where
there’s someone starts to go down someone gets hot, so that rhythm
of our offense over the course of the season has allowed our
offense to be consistent and that’s the sign of a good team and a
While Spezza and Michalek have stepped up, Erik Karlsson is
trying to find his offensive touch. The NHL’s leading scorer among
defensemen has one goal and one assist in his last five games after
totaling six and 11 in a seven-game scoring binge.
Buffalo (31-29-8) has shown flashes of that kind of offense in
going 7-2-1 in its last 10 as it fights for the last playoff spot
in the East. The Sabres, however, lost 3-1 at Boston on Thursday
night – their second defeat in three games as they enter this
contest just outside the East playoff picture.
Jason Pominville provided a first-period lead against the Bruins
with his 25th goal, but Buffalo failed to generate any further
“When you have leads, it’s sticking together and not giving up
much and being good with it, and it wasn’t good enough,” Pominville
said. “It falls on us to be better and to generate more by
simplifying, by getting pucks deep and skating.”
The Sabres also lost fellow 20-goal scorer Thomas Vanek to an
upper-body injury after a third-period check by Boston’s Johnny
Boychuk. Vanek didn’t practice with the team in Ottawa on
Ottawa has won the last three meetings with Buffalo, taking the
most recent one 3-2 in a shootout Dec. 31. Erik Condra has three of
his seven goals this season in the five games versus Buffalo, while
Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold has three goals and two assists in