By CHRIS ALTRUDA STATS Editor
Ottawa (19-11-6) at Buffalo (14-17-6), 7:00 p.m. EDT
The Ottawa Senators were buyers at the trade deadline, dealing from strength to bolster a rotation of forwards still thin due to injuries.
The Buffalo Sabres were sellers, continuing the early stages of what appears to be a rebuilding phase.
The Northeast Division rivals meet Friday night in Buffalo, where the Senators will get their first look at newly acquired rookie Cory Conacher against a Sabres squad moving on from dealing Jason Pominville
Despite No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson suffering a sprained ankle Feb. 21, the Senators (19-11-6) were able to hold their ground in the playoff race behind Ben Bishop and AHL call-up Robin Lehner Anderson is now healthy enough to play, though coach Paul MacLean did not name a starter for this game after practice Thursday even though Bishop is gone from the roster.
“I’m a guy who likes to be first on the puck and in the corners and dig for loose pucks and create turnovers and finish checks and skate hard and back check hard and be responsible on the ice,” Conacher told the team’s official website. “I think Ottawa is a team that’s working on a lot of those things and they have a lot of players who do those things which will be a good fit for me.”
Conacher’s 24 points trail only Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau among all rookies and are two more than anyone on Ottawa. MacLean put Conacher on a line with fellow rookies Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad in Thursday’s practice, teaming together three of the league’s top 13 first-year scorers.
“We’re trying to find the best place for him to have success early,” MacLean said. “He’s been good on the power play and that’s something we need as well.”
The Senators opened a seven-game road trip Tuesday with a 3-2 loss at Boston in a rare free-wheeling game that was also normal in it being decided by one goal. Lehner made a career-high 47 saves as Ottawa fell to 9-7-6 in one-goal games.
The game was “way too wide open for us” in the first period, forward Erik Condra said after his team matched a season high with 47 shots. “After that it was a good game both ways. We struggled in the first and just never got it back.”
Buffalo (14-17-6) is last in the Northeast, 10 points behind Ottawa, and general manager Darcy Regier has been retooling his roster. Wednesday’s move may have been the biggest, shipping captain Jason Pominville and a 2014 draft pick to Minnesota for prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett plus two draft picks.
“It’s going to involve rolling back a little bit organizationally,” said Regier, who had previously dealt defensemen Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold for picks. “Acquire the assets, the players, the draft picks and do it in a way that’s going to allow us to group enough young players together, or players together, in order to win a championship.”
The Sabres snapped a four-game losing streak - and Pittsburgh’s 15-game win streak - with a 4-1 road victory Tuesday behind two goals from Kevin Porter
Ottawa has won all three games between the teams this season, and Kyle Turris’ power-play goal with 1:06 left in overtime provided a 4-3 victory at Buffalo in the most recent meeting March 16. Anderson had a season-high 42 saves in a 2-0 victory Feb. 12, his fifth straight win over the Sabres.