Sabres-Thrashers Preview

By MATT BEARDMORE STATS Writer

Buffalo (3-6-1) at Atlanta (4-4-1), 7:30 p.m. EDT

Atlanta Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay was happy with how his club handled pressure in its last game. The same can’t be said of the last time the Thrashers faced the Buffalo Sabres.

Looking to build on its first win in nearly two weeks, Atlanta hosts the Sabres for the final time this season Friday night.

Looking to rebound from a three-game losing streak that started with a 4-1 defeat to visiting Buffalo (3-6-1) on Oct. 20, the Thrashers (4-4-1) had six players score in a 6-3 road victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Despite Atlanta being outshot 11-6 in the final 20 minutes and Chris Mason(notes) yielding two third-period goals, Ramsay was proud of how his team kept its composure.

“I was really thrilled with the talk on the bench,” he said after the Thrashers’ highest-scoring game since March 18. “It was all positive.”

That was not the case earlier this month against Buffalo, as the Thrashers recorded a season-low 18 shots on goal and had their nine-game home point streak in this matchup snapped. The Sabres’ season-best 42 shots helped them end a five-game skid and post their first regulation victory at Philips Arena since Jan. 31, 2006.

Ryan Miller(notes) didn’t have to work very hard in the Oct. 20 game, but Buffalo’s goaltender had his hands full in a 6-3 loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday, facing 34 shots - 27 in the opening two periods. The Sabres’ penalty killing unit didn’t help the 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner, allowing three power-play goals in five opportunities.

“We let it go downhill,” said Miller, 9-2-4 with a 2.54 GAA in 17 starts versus Atlanta. “It was all created by us, and we have to clean it up.”

The Sabres will face a Thrashers club ranked among the NHL’s top 10 in power-play percentage at 21.4.

Newcomer Dustin Byfuglien(notes) has been helped key that success, recording a team-high three power-play goals. His third-period score Wednesday gave him half as many goals with the man advantage as he had in 82 games for Chicago last season.

Fellow former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd(notes) has been another solid offseason pickup, leading the Thrashers with 10 points. The veteran forward has three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak.

The Sabres continue to get production from center Derek Roy(notes), who has team highs of five goals and 11 points after leading the club in points each of the last two seasons. Thomas Vanek(notes) is also starting to contribute, scoring all four of his goals in the last four games.

Roy has 27 points in 23 games against Atlanta, while Vanek has 14 goals in 20 matchups with the Thrashers.

The Sabres could get a lift if forward Jason Pominville(notes) (concussion) and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn(notes) (groin) return Friday.

Mason, who has yielded four goals in four of his last six starts, will likely be in net as the Thrashers await the return of Ondrej Pavelec(notes). The team’s No. 1 goalie could start Saturday at St. Louis in what would be his first appearance since collapsing in the season opener.

Buffalo has never won twice in Atlanta in a season.


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Updated Thursday, Oct 28, 2010