The Buffalo Sabres are sure to get another rousing welcome back to HSBC Arena, even though the home crowd may secretly want the team to stay on the road.
Following two more wins that kept their perfect road record intact, the Sabres open a stretch in which they play five of six games at home when they meet the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
Buffalo (15-1-1) extended its league record for consecutive road wins to start a season to 10 games with a 7-4 victory over Carolina on Monday. The Sabres had won 5-4 in overtime at Philadelphia on Saturday, one night after needing overtime to beat lowly Florida at home.
“We pride ourselves in playing well on the road,” said center Adam Mair, who scored his first goal of the season in the third period Monday to put the Sabres ahead for good.
“In this league the road is a tough place to play and a tough place to win. If you can pick up points on the road, it makes things a lot easier.”
But Buffalo, which owns an NHL-best 31 points, hasn’t made things look easy at home. Of their last four games at HSBC Arena, the Sabres have lost two and have won the other two by 5-4 scores.
The team hosts Pittsburgh on Friday before visiting Ottawa the following night, then returns home for matchups with Tampa Bay, Toronto and Montreal.
“It’s been a great month,” defenseman Teppo Numminen said. “It’s been enjoyable and real special. I don’t think anybody thought this would be the start for us. But, you know, we’ll take it.”
One of Buffalo’s nine one-goal victories this season came on the road in its only meeting of the season with Ottawa, 4-3 on Oct. 7.
That was the first matchup between these clubs since the Sabres ousted the Senators in five games—all decided by one goal—in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
Ottawa’s start to the season has gone about as badly as that series.
The Senators (6-10-1), who haven’t missed the playoffs since 1995-96, have the third-fewest points in the conference and enter this contest having lost seven of eight.
“I don’t know what’s happened,” Ottawa center Mike Fisher said. “We’re just giving up goals we’re not used to. We’re facing adversity and we’ve got to find our way out of it, and that’s going to make us a better team in the long run.”
The penalty kill has been a big problem for Ottawa, which has given up 10 power-play goals over the past six games. Plus, the Senators have allowed seven short-handed goals this season.
They will be facing a Buffalo team which is 6-for-22 on the power play during its current four-game winning streak.
Goalie Martin Gerber, who won 38 games last season and posted a 2.78 goals-against average with the Hurricanes, is off to a poor start in his first year with Ottawa. He has a 3-8-1 record and 3.45 GAA, allowing 21 goals in his last five starts.
“We know we can play better hockey,” Gerber said. “We can be a better team than we are right now but everybody’s trying really hard.”