Slumping Sabres look to take wind out of Hurricanes

The Buffalo Sabres are enduring a rough stretch in which they’ve had trouble containing some of the top players in the NHL. They’ll try to avoid losing three straight in regulation for the first time all season Friday night when they face another major threat in Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes. Buffalo (32-16-7, 32-23 SU) is 2-5-1 in its last eight games, and a 5-2 loss at Vancouver on Jan. 25 was the start of a disturbing trend against star players. The Sedin brothers combined for four points in that win for the Canucks.

The Sabres have had trouble the last two games as well, allowing Sidney Crosby to record a hat trick in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday and yielding two goals apiece to Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in a 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday. “We’ve made notes of that, too, that we wanna stop these guys, not give them rush chances and not give their top guys chances,” center Tim Connolly said. “But I mean, you just want to limit them as much as you can.”

A key to beating Carolina (19-30-7, 19-37 SU) could be slowing down Staal, who enters with nine goals and six assists during a career high-tying 10-game point streak. All nine of those goals have come in the eight games since Staal was elevated to captain over Rod Brind’Amour on Jan. 21 and the Hurricanes have won four of last five against Eastern Conference clubs.

Buffalo held Staal without a point in a 5-1 victory Nov. 28 in the lone meeting this season. Rookie defenseman Tyler Myers had three assists during the Sabres’ five-goal third period.

Both teams are entering after poor efforts on the power play. The Sabres went 0 for 4 against the Senators. “There’s no doubt, I thought our power play struggled tonight,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had two of them when we had good zone time but we didn’t generate the opportunities. We missed nets, we had key opportunities to put some pucks in some better places and we didn’t.” Nonetheless, Buffalo is 19-8 after scoring two or fewer goals in previous outing.

Staal scored on the power play Wednesday in a 4-1 loss at Calgary, but the Hurricanes finished 1 for 9. “We just didn’t get enough on the power play,” Staal said. “We got one, but it would have been nice to get a few more.”

Carolina has scored at least once with the man advantage in five consecutive road games, going 8 for 26. Buffalo, though, hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in any of its last six home games. Carolina has been clipped 21 of last 27 games after losing by three or more goals.
Buffalo went 9-0-3 in 12 home games before Wednesday’s defeat.
Connolly and Andrej Sekera scored to help the Sabres rally from a 2-0 deficit in the third period before they conceded two goals in the final minute. “We battled hard in the third to get back in it,” Ruff said. “The best description is we just found another way to lose a game.” The Sabres are 76-38 in home games after losing two or more consecutive games since 1996.

Carolina, meanwhile, began a four-game trip this week on a season-high, four-game win streak. The momentum has not carried over, losing 4-2 to lowly Edmonton on Monday before falling to the Flames. “We could sit … and moan about how poorly we played, but Calgary played a good game,” coach Paul Maurice said. has Buffalo as decided -215 money line favorite with total of 5.5. The Sabres are 50-20 on home ice vs. a team with a road record of .400 or less (Carolina 6-22 SU) and they are 9-4-1 UNDER if their opponent scored two or fewer goals in last outing. The Hurricanes are road kill with six wins in last 30 road games and are 6-2 OVER in previous eight facing a winning team.

This matchup is on MSG at 7:30 Eastern and Buffalo has won seven of eight at home against Carolina and is 17-5 on Friday night’s.