Despite being without two of their top players because of injuries, the Carolina Hurricanes are playing some of their best hockey of the season.
On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes will visit the Buffalo Sabres, who are also without a key contributor, albeit for a completely different reason.
Carolina (18-16-9) extended its season-best winning streak to four games with a 2-1 victory over Nashville on Sunday. Anton Khudobin had another outstanding performance with 31 saves and Jeff Skinner stayed red hot with a goal and an assist.
That success has come despite the absences of leading scorer Eric Staal and top goaltender Cam Ward. Both players have lower-body injuries and neither is expected to play Tuesday.
''Momentum is a big thing,'' coach Kirk Muller said.
Khudobin, who played in just three of the team's first 43 games because of an ankle injury, has been in net for each of the last three wins and posted a .947 save percentage in those starts.
''We took a chance, three in four nights for him, but he's been playing well,'' Muller said. ''We just went for it.''
Skinner leads the league with 16 goals since Dec. 3, tallying 22 points during that 16-game span. He has three goals in his last three games against Buffalo.
The Hurricanes seek their first five-game win streak since a seven-game run Feb. 5-March 4, 2010.
They won't have to contend with towering Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who will be serving the first game of a three-game suspension handed down Monday. Myers was penalized by the league for unnecessarily extending and launching himself into the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus on Saturday.
"That's just one of the disadvantages of being as tall as I am. It just comes with the territory," the 6-foot-8 Myers told reporters Monday before the suspension was announced. "I don't want to change anything just because of that. If things come out of it because of my height then I'll deal with it."
Though the Sabres (12-26-4) have the fewest points in the NHL, they have won five straight at home for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Buffalo hasn't won six in a row there since Jan. 17-Feb. 15, 2007.
Ryan Miller has keyed the turnaround. The veteran goaltender struggled at the start of the season, going 5-15-0 with a 3.05 goals-against average during the first two months. Since the start of December, he is 6-3-1 with a 1.86 GAA.
Miller is 6-0-0 with a 1.29 GAA in his last six home starts, making 21 saves in a 2-1 home victory over New Jersey on Saturday.
"The guys definitely feel the energy,'' Miller said of playing at home. ''It's important to hear that the crowd's behind you."
Miller, though, has struggled recently against Carolina, losing six of seven starts while allowing 19 goals.
The Hurricanes won all three games against the Sabres last season, scoring 13 goals.
Carolina is 7-1-2 in the past 10 meetings.
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