Red Wings-Sabres Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings didn't expect to be keeping close company with the Buffalo Sabres when they switched to the Eastern Conference.

Since Nov. 3, that's exactly what they've done as the first-year Atlantic Division foes have combined for 13 points in the last three weeks.

The Red Wings and Sabres are two of four NHL teams with seven points or less in that span, and they'll face off Sunday in Buffalo.

Detroit (10-7-7) has seven points over its last nine games - a 1-3-5 span. The Red Wings failed to add to that total in Saturday's 4-2 home loss to Ottawa.

"Bottom line is you've got to be mentally tough and you've got to find a way to win games, and we didn't find a way tonight," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

Detroit and Ottawa each went 2 for 8 on the power play.

"You deserve what you get," Babcock said. "You can't be in the box all night. No one gets into rhythm like that."

Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm scored power-play goals for Detroit, while Henrik Zetterberg got his sixth assist in the last four games.

Datsyuk has eight points in his last five games against Buffalo.

Detroit's Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on 29 shots, falling to 0-2-4 in his last six starts. Backup Jonas Gustavsson will start against the Sabres. He's 1-3-2 in seven career games against Buffalo, including six starts.

Despite the poor nine-game stretch, the Red Wings are still 16 points ahead of the Sabres (5-18-1), thanks to a strong start to the season. Detroit opened with a 2-1 home win against the Sabres to improve to 10-1-1 against them since Feb. 13, 2003.

The Red Wings are also 5-1-0 at Buffalo since Dec. 10, 2003.

The Sabres have lost three in a row and have six points in the last three weeks. They've scored only twice in two games after Thursday's 4-1 loss at Philadelphia.

The loss dropped them to 1-3-0 under interim coach Ted Nolan.

"We have to play a certain way, and by doing stupid things like we have been, it's going to be ugly games," Nolan said. "I've seen enough in four games. We have to change some things, and players have to do it or it's going to be a long year.

"You have to do simple things. You can't have turnovers, can't have foolish penalties, can't be muscled off the puck."

Buffalo's Ryan Miller allowed three goals on 45 shots. He's faced an average of 40.7 shots in his last seven starts, going 3-4-0 in that span.

Detroit hasn't been kind to Miller in 11 career starts. He's 2-7-2 with a 3.53 goals-against average and .896 save percentage and has never held the Red Wings to fewer than two goals.

Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi missed the Ottawa game with an upper-body injury, while Daniel Alfredsson missed his fifth straight with a groin injury. Defenseman Jakub Kindl only played one shift in the third period because of a hip injury.

Buffalo forward Cody McCormick is expected to miss a week with an upper-body injury.

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