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The Buffalo Sabres have tallied the most goals in the league this season en route to the Eastern Conference's best record. But scoring goals and getting wins at home against the Edmonton Oilers have been hard to come by for more than a decade.
The Sabres will try to post their first home win over the Oilers in nearly 11 1/2 years as the teams meet on Thursday night.
Buffalo (38-15-4) defeated Edmonton at home on Oct. 18, 1995, but has been outscored 21-10 in four losses and two ties versus the Oilers since that victory. Coming into their first matchup at HSBC Arena in nearly five years, the Sabres also haven't scored against the Oilers in 140 minutes, 12 seconds.
With 80 points, Buffalo leads the East but is one point behind Nashville for the Presidents' Trophy lead.
The Sabres have followed up a season-worst three-game home losing streak with five straight wins there - a season-best. Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek each scored in regulation, and Ales Kotalik added the lone shootout goal in Buffalo's 3-2 win over Calgary on Saturday.
Vanek's goal was his 29th this season and he needs one more to tie Chris Drury for the team lead. Buffalo, which has scored a league-high 212 goals, hasn't had two 30-goal scorers in one season since Dale Hawerchuk (35) and Alexander Mogilny (32) in 1993-94.
After beating the Flames, though, the Sabres learned forward Paul Gaustad would miss the remainder of the season because he needs surgery to repair a sliced tendon in his lower left leg. One-time Oilers defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, signed as a free agent by Buffalo last summer, broke his left hand in the first period blocking a shot and will miss at least two weeks.
"These things happen," Briere said. "You look at last year when we had a lot of guys go down. ... Somebody's going to have to step up."
On Tuesday, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said forward Tim Connolly would miss at least a week of workouts with a leg stress fracture. Headaches stemming from a concussion during last season's playoffs have sidelined Connolly all of this season.
"Talk about bad luck. He gets slapped with it again," said Ruff, who also did not indicate which leg Connolly hurt.
Edmonton (28-25-4) started its season-high seven-game road trip with a 3-0 loss to Boston on Tuesday night. The Oilers have alternated wins and losses in their last six on the road, where they are 10-14-2.
"And that was the start we didn't want," coach Craig MacTavish said in frustration after the Oilers' fourth shutout loss this season. "Your margin of error is pretty fine defensively and from a discipline perspective when you don't score any goals."
The Oilers have scored a league-low 54 goals on the road and that, combined with their poor record, could keep the defending Western Conference champions out of the playoff mix. Edmonton is in ninth place with 60 points and trails Northwest Division rival Minnesota by seven for the eighth and final playoff berth.
Edmonton will wrap up its road swing on Feb. 25 at Minnesota, the first of five meetings with the Wild over the remainder of the regular season.
Dwayne Roloson finished with 20 saves against the Bruins to fall to 9-12-2 on the road. Roloson, who played with Buffalo from 1998-2000 primarily as a backup to Dominik Hasek and Martin Biron, is 0-3 with a tie and 2.46 goals-against average in his career versus the Sabres.
|Feb 15 '07||EDM 1 at BUF 2 - OT||D. Briere|