The Sabres have been shut out in a franchise high-tying three consecutive contests, with the last two blankings recorded while captain Jack Eichel served a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head against Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg.
Eichel, who leads Buffalo in assists (47) and points (72), had a bit of fire in his belly during Friday's practice as he centered a line with former Hurricanes star Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart.
"I think whenever you miss a game -- hurt, suspended, whatever it is -- I think it's tough to sit in the press box, for sure," the 22-year-old Eichel said. "You want to be out there competing as much as you can so, yeah, it stinks not playing. It's good that it's over and you just move past it."
Eichel didn't like what he saw in Thursday's 5-0 setback to the Penguins in Pittsburgh, with the Sabres surrendering three power-play goals while failing to generate anything on their two opportunities with the man advantage.
Sabres coach Phil Housley was quick to welcome back Eichel, and immediately began tinkering with his power-play units as a means to generate offense.
"I'm really excited," Housley said. "It's good to have Jack back, obviously, and I thought both units moved the puck around well and scored some goals, so that's encouraging. It will be good to see (defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen) pound the puck from the flank."
Skinner has excelled in his first season with Buffalo, and registered three of his club-best 36 goals vs. Carolina, with which he spent his first eight NHL campaigns. The 26-year-old, however, is mired in a 13-game goal drought.
While Eichel, Skinner and Co. have been reduced to playing the role of spoilers, the Hurricanes enter the opener of their five-game homestand bidding to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008-09.
Like Buffalo, Carolina was shut out in its last contest despite registering 46 shots on goal -- including 22 in the second period -- in Friday's 3-0 setback vs. Columbus. The loss allowed the Blue Jackets to match the Hurricanes with 83 points as the Metropolitan Division rivals occupy both wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
"We know what our goal is and we're not there yet," coach Rod Brind'Amour told the Raleigh News & Observer. "The guys have pushed hard to try to get into the race and we certainly don't want to take any steps back now."
Micheal Ferland returned from a two-game absence due to a lower-body injury and had a team-high five of the club's 46 shots on goal.
After Petr Mrazek started three straight games, Curtis McElhinney likely will get the nod on Saturday. He's looking to rebound after yielding eight goals in an 8-1 shellacking by Winnipeg on March 8. The 35-year-old turned aside 30 shots in a 4-3 victory over Buffalo on Jan. 11 and made 34 saves in a 6-5 overtime win against the Sabres on Feb. 7.
Teuvo Teravainen scored 3:25 into overtime in that contest and has 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in his last 10 games.
--Field Level Media