Sabres-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

As much as the banged-up Buffalo Sabres have struggled at times this season, they're only a handful of points out of playoff position.

Finally getting healthy could help them make up that deficit.

Having ended a three-game losing streak in their last outing, the Sabres will try to snap a five-game road skid when they face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

Buffalo (18-17-4) has been fortunate to stay within striking distance of a postseason spot, having not won consecutive games since a season-best four-game run Nov. 4-11. A rash of injuries has played a major role in the Sabres' problems, but they may be on the verge of moving past the health issues.

Defenseman Tyler Myers is hoping to return Friday after tests showed his broken right wrist is fully healed. The 2010 NHL rookie of the year missed 19 games.

Forward Ville Leino, who has sat out nine games with a broken left foot, could return Saturday against Winnipeg. Speedy playmaking center Tyler Ennis also might be back this weekend after missing six games with an ankle problem.

"It's very encouraging," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We feel they're important pieces to our team. We're getting good players back."

Ruff's club still has health concerns, as defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera are out indefinitely with upper-body injuries, but the Sabres will be facing a second straight last-place opponent as they look to build some momentum.

Buffalo knocked off Edmonton 4-3 on Tuesday for its second win in eight games. Drew Stafford scored the go-ahead goal with 5:26 left and assisted on Nathan Gerbe's winner 2:04 later against the road-weary Oilers, who were playing the fifth game of a grueling seven-game trip.

"We've talked about it enough. Bottom line is guys knew we just needed to go out there and get it done," Stafford said. "It feels good to get those two points. Now, hopefully we can string a few together."

Each of the Sabres' five losses during their road skid have come in regulation. They haven't lost six in a row in that manner since a team-record seven-game slide Jan. 10-Feb. 3, 1996.

The Eastern Conference-worst Hurricanes (13-21-7) have dropped two in a row and three of four but have played better since a seven-game losing streak, going 5-4-3.

Carolina had a three-game home win streak snapped Tuesday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders. Chad LaRose gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead with 4:14 left in regulation, but New York tied it with 1:30 remaining.

The Hurricanes have not trailed after 40 minutes in 10 consecutive games but have given up at least one third-period goal in nine of them, including 10 in the last four. They're allowing a league-worst average of 1.46 goals in the third.

"We've got to get that killer instinct when we get that opportunity," coach Kirk Muller said. "We had chances. We didn't capitalize."

Carolina had 40 shots on goal - 17 in the first period.

The Hurricanes had gone 3-0-1 in four matchups with Buffalo behind Cam Ward, who posted a 1.73 goals-against average, but he sat out a 1-0 loss in the most recent meeting Nov. 18. Brian Boucher stopped 19 shots, but Jhonas Enroth earned what remains his only shutout of the season with 34 saves.

Likely Sabres starter Ryan Miller has lost three straight against Ward with a 2.70 GAA, but Buffalo has won two in a row at Raleigh and gone 8-1-5 in its last 14 there.

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