The Buffalo Sabres have surged all the way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Their next game, though, promises to be a stern test.
Streaking Buffalo continues its seven-game road trip Tuesday night against an Anaheim Ducks team riding its longest home winning streak in two seasons.
Buffalo (30-11-6) scored a point in its 11th straight game and tied East-leading Washington at 66 points with Monday’s 7-2 victory over Phoenix. It was the most goals scored by the Sabres since a 7-1 victory at the New York Islanders on Oct. 13, 2008.
“I said before the game we had an opportunity to tie up top, and our goal is to get there,” said coach Lindy Ruff, whose team hasn’t lost in regulation since a 5-2 defeat at Washington on Dec. 23. “We’ll enjoy it for the next half-hour, then get ready to play a team that’s been playing real well in their building, and that’s Anaheim.”
The Sabres are 2-0-1 on their longest road trip of the season and 9-2-1 in their last 12 away games, but the Ducks (22-20-7) will try to win their eighth straight at the Honda Center and continue their push toward contention in the West.
Anaheim has won six of seven overall but is currently out of a playoff spot. The Ducks haven’t missed the postseason since 2003-04.
“We knew what was at stake,” team leading scorer Corey Perry(notes) told the Ducks’ official Web site following Sunday’s 5-4 victory over Calgary. “We’re looking at the standings and we know what is going on. It’s up to us. We have to go out and get every point we can. Those two points are huge for us. It was one of those games where we had to find a way to win.”
Perry and Bobby Ryan(notes) each scored in the third period to extend Anaheim’s longest home winning streak since a franchise-best 10-game run Feb. 17-March 26, 2008. The Ducks, who open a six-game road trip Thursday at Pacific Division-leading San Jose, are averaging 4.1 goals during their home winning streak.
Anaheim, however, will face a Sabres club team that is 8-0-1 against Western Conference foes, outscoring the opposition 31-15 in those matchups.
For a Buffalo team seeking to return to the postseason after a two-year absence, goaltender Ryan Miller(notes) is proving a key to the resurgence. He is second in the NHL with 27 wins and a 2.01 goals-against average, and is 13-4-1 with a 1.86 GAA in 18 road starts.
Miller will likely make his first start against Anaheim since Dec. 5, 2007. Buffalo dropped two games to the Ducks last season by 3-2 scores, with Patrick Lalime(notes) in net for both defeats. The Ducks have won three straight against the Sabres overall since a 3-2 overtime loss in Buffalo on Dec. 8, 2005.
Despite allowing three breakaway goals Sunday, Jonas Hiller(notes) is expected to make his eighth straight start for the Ducks. He is 6-1-0 with a 2.44 GAA over the last seven games. Hiller made 21 saves in a 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Feb. 2.
After recording a season-high three assists Monday, Sabres center Tim Connolly(notes) will try to extend his career-high point streak to 13. Connolly, who has five goals and 14 assists during his run, is one goal shy of 100.