The Sabres have enough trouble with the Ottawa Senators. The last thing they need is for their archrivals to be hitting HSBC Arena red-hot but that's what's happening tonight. And warning warning, call 911: A regulation win tonight pulls Ottawa within three points in the Northeast Division. The Sens were 13 back -- and Buffalo had three games in hand -- when their franchise-record nine-game winning streak started Jan. 12 in New York.
"We're playing well, putting some wins together," coach Cory Clouston told me after the Sens' gameday skate today. "We're not worried about where we end up, as long as we put ourselves into the playoffs in the best possible position we can be, playing good hockey and being healthy. That's our goal right now."
If that sounds understated, consider where the Sens have been. They've lost 159 man-games to injury (the Sabres have lost only 80) and virtually all of their big names have missed big time. When the streak started, the Sens were just 22-21-4 and had been outscored, 22-5, in a five-game losing skid. You wondered if they'd even be a playoff team.
"We had so many guys out. We knew if we could get through this and get everybody back, we'd be feeling good about ourselves," said center Jason Spezza, who missed 20 games with a knee injury. "Sometimes it's good for other guys to step up and get more responsibility and confidence. Then when your players come back, everybody feels better about things."
Spezza, who had just one goal in the first 22 games, has scored in six straight and can tie Dany Heatley's franchise record of seven tonight. Goalie Brian Elliott has won seven straight and the team has outscored its opponents, 30-10, during the nine-game run.
As Spezza told me, the streak has been about a little bit of everything. So has the seven-game run against Buffalo that dates to Jan. 6, 2009.
"You have to think it's more coincidence than anything to have that long a run against them," Spezza said. "It's a great rivalry, arguably our best rivalry with any team. A lot of us played against each other in the American League in the lockout (in Rochester-Binghamton games) and it's just carried on. It seems we've played every year in the playoffs, 6-8 times in the regular season. They're exciting games."
At least for one side they are. We'll see how it goes tonight.
taggedNHL | Sabres | Sabres game day