The budding rivalry between Carolina and Buffalo has gone back and forth— and the Hurricanes are hoping the momentum is swinging their way again.
The Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes will be trying for their first win in Buffalo since the 2006 Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.
Carolina (14-9-3) beat Buffalo (11-11-1) in seven games in the 2006 conference finals, but lost all four games between the teams last season.
However, the Hurricanes beat the Sabres 6-2 at home on Oct. 24 in the first meeting this season. Eric Staal, Jeff Hamilton, Cory Stillman and Bret Hedican all scored third-period goals for Carolina in the win.
“I’m sure it’s on everybody’s mind,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said after that game. “They had our number last year. It just shows you that every year is different and every game is different.
“I’m sure that we’ll have our hands full with Buffalo the next time we play them - they have a good hockey team.”
Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek agrees the teams have developed something of a rivalry over the last couple of years.
“Every year we have pretty good matchups against them,” he said Friday. “They knocked us out a couple of years ago. I don’t think any of us is going to forget that anytime soon. Hopefully we can get a big win here.”
The Hurricanes won for just the third time in eight games on Friday, beating last-place Washington 4-3. Carolina, which won despite taking a season-low 19 shots, had managed only 13 goals in its previous seven games.
“Two points right now is huge for our team,” said goalie Cam Ward, who made 31 saves. “We realize that we’ve got to be playing better. We’re going to do what we can to take the positives and move forward.”
Captain Rod Brind’Amour scored two goals and is the only Carolina player with points in each of the team’s 14 victories. He has 11 goals and 13 assists in those games.
Cory Stillman, who leads the team with 31 points, also scored and has two goals and five assists during a six-game points streak.
The Sabres, meanwhile, lost 4-3 to St. Louis on Wednesday, ending a five-game winning streak. Jason Pominville, Ales Kotalik and Andrej Sekera scored for Buffalo, which has managed at least three goals and scored first in each of its last six games.
“We turned the puck over way too many times,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We were very careless with the puck. We didn’t take care of it and it hurt us.”
Pominville has scored goals in his last two games after being held without one in the previous 13. Kotalik, meanwhile, has scored all five of his goals on the power play.
“We’ve been playing really good hockey the last three weeks, (but) not so good against St. Louis,” Vanek said. “It was a good reminder for us to keep working hard, and things are going to go our way.”