The Buffalo Sabres have won four straight games, but the run has been a costly one.
The Eastern Conference-leading Sabres hope to overcome a rash of recent injuries when they host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Daniel Briere scored in overtime to give the Sabres (39-15-4) a 2-1 win over Edmonton on Thursday, but injuries to second-leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov and rookie center Jiri Novotny overshadowed the victory.
Afinogenov broke his left wrist in the second period and will miss at least six weeks, while Novotny aggravated an ankle injury with seven minutes left in the game and is out indefinitely.
“It’s going to make things a lot tougher. We’re going to have to dig in,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’ve got to grind your way through it.”
The Sabres’ two latest injuries occurred just a week after they lost forward Paul Gaustad (torn tendon in ankle) and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (broken left hand). Gaustad is done for the season and Spacek is expected to miss about a month.
“It’s one of those times of year where we’re getting hit now, it’s our turn,” said Briere, is tied for the league lead in overtime goals with three. “But you can’t stop and worry too much about it. There’s guys that are going to come up and it’s their chance to step up.”
Forwards Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur are the guys who will be getting a chance to step up after being recalled from AHL Rochester on Thursday night. Stafford has two goals and five points in 19 games with the Sabres this season, while MacArthur is scoreless in two contests.
“You look around and there have been cases where teams have lost key players and have been better at times,” Ruff said after Friday’s practice. “You get a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement from players that are getting the opportunity to play. I think that’s what you’re going to see.”
Buffalo lost some of its cushion in the East with a 6-7-1 record in January, but has bounced back to win five of six this month. The Sabres’ current win streak includes two shootout victories and an overtime win.
They’ve won six in a row at home, where they play three more games to close out a season-high six-game homestand. Among East teams, only New Jersey has more home wins than Buffalo.
The Sabres are 5-0-1 against the Bruins this season—outscoring them 29-14 — and 12-1-1 in the series over the past two seasons.
Boston (26-26-4) is coming off a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders in the opener of a season-high six-game road trip on Thursday. The game was tied entering the third period, but the Bruins gave up three goals in the last 10 minutes.
“It’s tough. We had a good road game going for two periods,” said Marc Savard, who assisted on the Bruins’ only goal. “Everybody has to be better offensively.”
Glen Murray scored on the power play for Boston, which lost for the second time in its last six games. The Bruins are in last place in the Northeast Division, and eight points back of the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.
“It was just mistakes in our own zone that cost us,” Murray said after Thursday’s loss. “We know the importance of these games. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see we need points.”
Those points may be hard to come by on the road, where Boston has lost eight of 10, including a 7-1 defeat to Buffalo on Jan. 30.
These teams close out their season series April 5 in Buffalo, where the Bruins have lost six straight since a 3-2 overtime win on March 11, 2004.