The Buffalo Sabres know they need to play better defensively even though they’ve produced good results lately.
Buffalo goes for a season-high fourth straight victory and sixth in a row in this Northeast Division matchup Friday night when the visiting Senators try to end a season-worst four-game skid.
Although the Sabres (9-5-0) pushed their winning streak to three with Tuesday’s 6-5 overtime victory over Winnipeg, coach Lindy Ruff has major concerns about the play of his blueliners.
“They didn’t play well,” Ruff said following Wednesday’s practice. “They made some bad decisions, and it’s been a little bit of our problem where we haven’t had six guys play well back there. … We made some ill-advised reads, we made a couple of tough plays into traffic and we got to clean those plays up.”
While veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr(notes) said the important thing was that the Sabres found a way to win, there’s no question the club needs better play from 2010 Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller(notes).
Back in net Tuesday after a two-game benching behind backup Jhonas Enroth(notes), Miller survived a three-goal first period and finished with 26 saves to avoid losing five consecutive games in regulation for the first time.
“It’s not the easiest situation right now for me,” Miller said. “… I want to help. And I want to get victories.”
It’s uncertain if Ruff will go with Miller or Enroth, who improved to 4-0-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average after making 25 saves in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout victory in Ottawa.
The Sabres have won seven of eight in this series since dropping nine in a row to the Senators.
Ottawa (7-8-1), which has won its last two trips to Buffalo, opens a six-game trip with the first of three visits there this season.
It’s uncertain if Alfredsson will be available after missing the last five games with a concussion. The Senators are 1-3-1 without him - and winless since a 6-0-0 run - following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
“It’s just day by day and talking to the coaches and seeing what they think,” Alfredsson said after skating with the team prior to Wednesday’s defeat. “This is a little different than any other injury I’ve had, so I want to make sure I feel good. … I’ll take it one day at a time and go from there.”
Ottawa, which last lost five straight during an 0-9-2 skid Jan. 14-Feb. 9, has killed 11 of 12 penalties in the last four games but has gone 0 for 11 on the power play.
Craig Anderson(notes) has allowed 12 goals while starting each of these contests. He stopped 31 shots Saturday but was beaten on three of Buffalo’s six shootout attempts, including the winner by Derek Roy(notes).
Roy had two of the Sabres’ season-best four power-play goals Tuesday and assisted on another.
Jason Spezza(notes) leads the Senators with 16 points but has only one over his last five games. He did not make the scoresheet Saturday, though the center has 13 goals and 13 assists during a 12-game point streak in Buffalo.
He scored twice with two assists the last time the Senators were in western New York, a 6-4 loss March 13.