Sabres-Senators Preview

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

growing team.”

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

the series.