The Ottawa Senators are battling for the NHL’s best record and first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Buffalo Sabres only wish their goals were that lofty.
Coming off a lopsided victory in the opener of this home-and-home series, Ottawa will look for a repeat performance when the teams meet at HSBC Arena.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson’s goal late in the first period was the first of seven unanswered scores by the Senators in a 7-1 rout of the Sabres at the Corel Centre on Saturday.
Bryan Smolinski had a goal and two assists for Ottawa, which earned at least a point in its 20th straight home game and finished with a 7-2-2-1 record in February.
The Senators are trying to hold off Boston and Toronto for the Northeast Division lead while also battling Philadelphia and Tampa Bay for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s good, we’d love to score seven goals every night,” Smolinski said. “We caught them after they had to play last night.”
Saturday’s win was the 399th for Senators coach Jacques Martin, leaving him one shy of becoming the 14th in league history with 400.
Wednesday begins a stretch during which Ottawa plays seven of eight games on the road. The Senators play 13 of their final 17 games away from the Corel Centre.
Still clinging to slim playoff hopes, the Sabres have picked an awful time for a four-game losing streak.
They have been outscored 23-6 during the skid, failing to pick up any ground on the eighth-place New York Islanders. The losing streak comes after Buffalo put together a 9-1-1 stretch from late January to the middle of February to get back into the playoff race.
“I don’t know what’s going on with us,” captain Daniel Briere said. “I don’t know if teams are too hard to play or if we’re too scared.”
Buffalo’s Rory Fitzpatrick sustained a potential season-ending knee injury Saturday, leaving the Sabres with just five defensemen.
Although not completely healed from a pinched nerve in his neck, James Patrick is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday after missing 15 games.