For the second straight season, no team in the NHL will play more back-to-back games than the Buffalo Sabres. It’s a challenge the club has come to welcome.
Looking to sweep their latest back-to-back set, the Sabres try for a sixth consecutive victory over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Jason Pominville(notes) scored a first-period goal and Jhonas Enroth(notes) made it stand by stopping 34 shots in place of the injured Ryan Miller(notes) to help Buffalo (12-7-0) win 1-0 at Carolina on Friday.
The result improved the Northeast Division-leading Sabres to 4-1 in the first of back-to-back games. Buffalo, which will play a league-high 21 back-to-back sets, has a chance to improve to 4-1 in the finale of that scenario Saturday. The Sabres went 12-8-2 on the front end and 11-8-3 on the back while playing an NHL-high 22 pairs of games on consecutive days in 2010-11.
Buffalo holds an 18-5 scoring advantage during a five-game winning streak over the Coyotes that dates to a 6-2 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 21, 2008. Pominville has three goals with an assist during that winning stretch over the Coyotes, and three with five assists during his last six games overall.
Thomas Vanek(notes) assisted on Pominville’s eighth of the season Friday, giving him three goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. The pair have combined on a goal 19 times this season.
Vanek has two goals and five assists in seven career games against the Coyotes.
Enroth, who has taken over after Miller suffered a concussion against Boston last Saturday, could be back in net after he improved to 7-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average this season.
He has never faced the Coyotes (9-5-3), who fell to 2-1-0 on their five-game road trip after a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett believes his team needs to play better in Buffalo than it did while giving up 42 shots and allowing the Flyers to score the winner with 18.6 seconds left in regulation.
“It wasn’t a great game by our team,” Tippett said. “We hung around the game (and) we had a chance to make points and it’s disappointing we didn’t.”
“He gives us the chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask from any goaltender,” Tippett said after Smith made 40 saves Thursday.
Smith has stopped 51 of the 53 shots he has faced while winning his last two starts against the Sabres.
Doan has three goals with six assists in his last seven games at Buffalo, but just a goal in his last eight contests overall this season.