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Preview: Sabres need early win to keep their distance

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Success in early division matchups add up to better playoff chances

Calgary Flames v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Game 13

Buffalo Sabres (6-4-2) vs Ottawa Senators (4-5-2)

Puck Drop: 7:30 PM | Canadian Tire Center | Ottawa, ON

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Senators Blog: Silver Seven

Know Your Opponent

Ottawa Senators

Record: (4-5-2) | 10 PTS

Last 10: 4-5-1

Division Ranking: 6th in the Atlantic Division

Conference Ranking: 12th in the Eastern Conference

PP: 13th (22.9%)

PK: 27th (68.4%)

What to Watch

1. Pickidduppickidduppickiddup!

After two straight overtime losses, the Sabres need to capture two points in regulation. It’s important to avoid taking these losses early in the season - especially to these conference and division rivals.

As fans, we can certainly appreciate the improvements from recent seasons, and coming back to snag a point against Columbus is unquestionably an improvement. Unfortunately, allowing the tying goal in the final minute and losing the extra point in overtime is all too familiar.

As the team approaches the first quarter of the season, these key points put a separation between the team and their potential rivals for wild card spots. It is imperative for Buffalo to keep the distance between themselves and Ottawa, and a regulation win is the best way to do so.

2. Even keel

Buffalo has been diligently disciplined this season, playing shorthanded only 9:09 a night, on average. The team will have to keep playing wise and clean against Ottawa’s high-powered power play. The Sabres cannot afford to give Ottawa repeated advantages; the Senators are scoring on on nearly one out of every four opportunities.

Special teams have been a lighthouse for Buffalo - when they are playing well, their special teams make a huge difference. When they play poorly, it is the special teams that have let them down. Ottawa can be a team that controls play with their PP units, and Buffalo would do well to avoid it.

3. Hot start

The team faces another stretch of three games in four nights. After tonight’s game, the same teams will travel to Buffalo for the backend of a home-at-home matinee.

If the Sabres can set the tone on the road, the atmosphere in the building on Saturday will definitely be electric. While no one likes to hear that an early roadie against the Eastern Conference’s 12th place team is important, this game feels like it carries a lot of weight - especially knowing that there are two more games to play before the week come to an end.

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville

Remi Elie - Casey Mittelstadt - Sam Reinhart

Conor Sheary - Vladimir Sobotka - Kyle Okposo

Patrik Berglund - Johan Larsson - Zemgus Girgensons

Defense

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen

Marco Scandella - Zach Bogosian

Rasmus Dahlin - Casey Nelson

Starting Goaltender: Carter Hutton

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Mark Stone

Alex Formenton - Chris Tierney - Bobby Ryan

Magnus Paajarvi - Colin White - Mikkel Boedker

Max McCormick - Tom Pyatt - Jack Rodewald

Defense

Thomas Chabot - Dylan Demelo

Maxime Lajoie - Cody Ceci

Christian Wolanin - Christian Jaros

Starting Goaltender: Craig Anderson