The Buffalo Sabres are playing like a top team again after more than two weeks of slumping. After more than five years of waiting, they now get a chance to prove they can still dominate the Calgary Flames at home.
The Sabres, who have a chance to take over the NHL lead in points, look to extend a six-game home unbeaten streak against the Flames when the teams meet Saturday.
Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo (37-15-4) has won four of five games, putting behind it a stretch during which the team went 2-5-1.
With 78 points, the Sabres trail Nashville by one for the league lead. The Predators host Los Angeles on Saturday.
“I think we’re regaining a little bite, a little attitude, a little bit of the physical tone that I thought was missing,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “The message was, ‘If you guys want something, you have to earn it.’”
The Sabres now face the Northwest Division-leading Flames, who haven’t won in Buffalo since a 3-1 victory on March 15, 1996. The Sabres have five wins and one tie during their run, converting 44.8 percent (13-for-29) of their power-play chances.
This will be the teams’ first meeting in Buffalo since Nov. 23, 2001, when the Sabres won 5-2, and their first matchup overall since a 4-1 Flames victory on Jan. 21, 2006.
Buffalo has matched a season high with four straight wins at home, outscoring opponents 20-9.
The Sabres opened a season-high, six-game homestand with a 3-2 win over Ottawa on Wednesday night.
Buffalo, though, will be without forward Paul Gaustad, who suffered a deep gash across his left ankle against the Senators. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Gaustad’s ankle is still swollen and he will have tests to make sure there is no further damage to the bone or nerves.
Gaustad plays on a line with Sabres leading scorer Chris Drury, and has tied a career high with nine goals in 54 games.
Buffalo defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, meanwhile, is scheduled to return Saturday after missing three games with a knee injury.
Thomas Vanek scored twice Wednesday, including the game-winner with 4 minutes left, after scoring in a shootout win at Atlanta the previous night. He is second on the team with 28 goals.
Calgary lost 2-1 at Columbus on Thursday night after picking up points in its previous eight games (5-0-3).
“Our top players didn’t play well at all,” Flames coach Jim Playfair said.
Calgary forward Jarome Iginla has been held off the scoresheet in two straight games after recording two goals and four assists in his previous three. He leads the team with 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists).
Kristian Huselius, though, extended his point streak to 14 games with an assist. He has nine goals and 11 assists in that span.
Flames defenseman Rhett Warrener has missed two straight games with an arm injury. He is with the team, however, as it plays the middle game of a three-game road trip.