Losing Stretch

The Buffalo Sabres look to avoid matching their longest losing streak in almost two years Sunday when they begin a difficult stretch of games with a matchup against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Buffalo (19-17-3) lost for the fifth straight time Friday, 5-3 at home to Ottawa. The Sabres haven't dropped six in a row since March 18-27, 2006.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Buffalo -114 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Buffalo -114 View NHL Bet Percentages).

Buffalo, which is 8-9-2 on the road, will try to snap the skid as it opens a three-game trip. The Sabres then play two of their next three at home before embarking on a season-high seven-game road trip from Jan. 19-Feb. 5.

Their five-game slide has come right after a season-high six-game winning streak, during which Buffalo outscored opponents 24-15.

The Sabres haven't come close to that type of production during the skid, scoring only eight times with Jochen Hecht, Brian Campbell and Ales Kotalik netting two goals each.

"We need our offense most nights to be better," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Hecht scored a goal Friday to give him a team-leading 14, only five fewer than his career high set in 2000-01 with St. Louis and matched last season. The veteran center, though, has only scored once in the last eight games against Atlanta (20-21-1).

Buffalo could use a better performance from goaltender Ryan Miller, who was pulled midway through the second period Friday after allowing three goals on 16 shots. Jocelyn Thibault stopped seven of nine shots the rest of the way and was charged with the loss.

Miller has lost four of five starts during the slide, but has a 2.15 goals-against average over that span.

He is 5-1-2 with a 2.19 GAA in eight games against the Thrashers, including a 20-save performance for his lone shutout of the season in a 6-0 win on Oct. 11.

These teams have split the last two games in Atlanta, with each club gaining at least one point.

The Thrashers - losers of four of their last six - hope Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the league's top scorers with 33 goals and 58 points, can help them rebound from a 4-3 home defeat to Carolina on Friday. Kovalchuk was held to an assist in the loss after he had four points in Wednesday's 5-4 road win over the Hurricanes.

Atlanta is 4-13 when Kovalchuk fails to score a goal.

Kovalchuk has played well against the Sabres at Philips Arena, scoring seven goals and assisting on four others in 10 meetings to help Atlanta to a 7-1-2 advantage.

Despite not finding the back of the net Friday, Kovalchuk has four goals and seven assists in the last five games.

The Thrashers' penalty-killing unit is one of the worst in the NHL at 77.2 percent, and has allowed seven goals in 19 attempts over the last three games.

Buffalo's power play, meanwhile, has struggled during the slide, converting only twice in 16 chances.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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