Series (Game 5 of 6)

Ottawa leads 5-1

Game 1: Saturday, November 21st
Game 2: Wednesday, December 16th
Game 3: Saturday, December 26th
Game 4: Wednesday, February 3rd
Game 5: Friday, March 26th
Game 6: Saturday, April 10th

Senators 4

(40-30-5, 85 pts)

Sabres 2

(40-23-10, 90 pts)

7:30 PM ET, March 26, 2010

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
OTT 1 2 14
BUF 0 1 12

B. Elliott (Senators - G): Saves: 41, Save Pct.: .953

J. Spezza (Senators - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

P. Gaustad (Sabres - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Senators-Sabres Preview


A four-game winning streak has the Buffalo Sabres in control of the Northeast Division, and a fifth consecutive victory may be enough to realistically secure the title.

Beating the Ottawa Senators would be an achievement of its own.

The Senators will have to notch a ninth straight win over Buffalo on Friday night if they hope to keep their dwindling division hopes alive, and they'll carry a renewed confidence to HSBC Arena after back-to-back shutout victories.

After leading the Northeast Division for most of the season, the Sabres spent the Olympic break looking up at Ottawa in the standings.

While Buffalo (40-22-10) lost the first two games after the break to Pittsburgh and Washington, the Sabres are 7-2-1 since, taking a seven-point lead on the Senators while holding two games in hand.

Ryan Miller, a Vezina Trophy candidate who ranks among the league leaders with a 2.21 goals-against average, is 7-0-1 in that stretch after helping lead the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in Vancouver.

Miller made 26 saves and stopped both shootout attempts in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on Wednesday night. The Sabres trailed 2-0 for most of the game before scoring two goals in the final two minutes of regulation.

"It was an ugly game but we'll take the two points," Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek said. "We talked about getting pucks to the net and going hard to the net and capitalizing on some rebounds. It took 58 minutes to finally get one. I think we all know that we can be better, and we will be better."

Buffalo has plenty of room for improvement against the Senators, who are 24-6-4 in the series since the NHL lockout. Ottawa has won the first four games in 2009-10 and eight straight overall after a 4-2 win at Buffalo on Feb. 3.

Ottawa's Brian Elliott and Miller both made 34 saves in that game, but Elliott improved to 7-0-0 with a 1.88 GAA in his career against Buffalo, while Miller slipped to 8-13-2 with a 2.96 GAA against the Senators.

Ottawa faces the Sabres twice more in its final eight games, and four points in those games could go a long way toward narrowing its deficit.

"We would like to give ourselves a chance to catch them," captain Daniel Alfredsson told the Senators' official Web site. "But more important is to continue to play the way we are."

Alfredsson would not have made such a comment over the weekend, when Ottawa lost its fifth straight and fell to 1-7-1 since the Olympic break with a 5-4 loss at Dallas.

But the Senators (39-30-5) have tightened their defense during consecutive 2-0 victories over Montreal and Philadelphia on Monday and Tuesday, solidifying their playoff position and regaining a grip on fifth place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Canadiens and Flyers.

Brian Elliott stopped all 55 shots he faced in the two wins, notching his fifth and sixth career shutouts.

"He's played unbelievable the last two games and we've been able to score the first goals, too ... which definitely helps" Alfredsson said. "We're skating much better. We're being more aggressive, not as passive as we were. Hopefully we can continue that."

Alfredsson extended his point streak to five games with a goal Tuesday, but the Senators' offense could still use a spark after being held to two or fewer goals for the eighth time in 11 games since the break. Its power play, which ranks among the bottom five in the NHL, went 0 for 7 against Philadelphia.

The Sabres have one of the league's best penalty kills (85.8 percent), and Ottawa is 1 for 15 (6.7 percent) against them this season.