The Ottawa Senators look to continue their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres, and move closer to securing the Northeast Division title when the teams play the first of two meetings in the next four days.
The Eastern Conference-leading Senators have 107 points and lead the second-place Sabres by nine in the Northeast. Both teams have already clinched playoff spots, but Ottawa has outscored Buffalo 29-9 in going 5-0-1 in this season’s series.
Ottawa won for just the second time in five games Monday as Dany Heatley tied the franchise record for goals in a season with 45 in a 6-4 victory over Atlanta. Heatley scored twice to tie the single-season mark set in 2002-03 by Marian Hossa—who the Senators traded to Atlanta in the offseason to get Heatley.
“It’s a great feeling definitely to do it here but in regards to playing those guys, I’m just happy we got the win,” said Heatley, who has six goals in his last five games and five goals and three assists against the Sabres this season.
Jason Spezza had a goal and two assists against the Thrashers, and has 14 assists in his last 11 games.
Ray Emery has started every game in goal for the Senators since the Olympic break, going 13-3-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and two shutouts in that span. He is 4-0 against Buffalo this season with a 2.00 GAA.
Ottawa clinched a playoff spot for the ninth straight season with a 3-1 win over the Sabres on March 24, while Buffalo secured its first playoff berth in five years after a 3-2 shootout victory over Toronto on Monday.
The victory came two days after a 7-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, and was just Buffalo’s second in its last 10 games.
“It was a relief to get that one point and clinch a playoff spot,” goalie Martin Biron said. “Even though this last stretch was a bad one, the biggest stretch of the year is coming up in three weeks. That’s really important.”
Biron made 31 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts Monday, but he’s struggled against the Senators this season, allowing 12 goals in two games. Starting goalie Ryan Miller is 1-3-0 with a 2.95 GAA against Ottawa this season.
The Sabres will be without center Jochen Hecht for several weeks because of a left knee injury suffered Monday when he took a hit from the Leafs’ Darcy Tucker. Hecht has 18 goals and 24 assists this season.
“If you go knee on knee and take a shot at the guy’s head at the same time, you don’t deserve to be in the game,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re going to the playoffs and you take out one of our best players because you couldn’t take a hit. That’s an absolute joke.”
These teams conclude their season series on Saturday in Ottawa.