|Date of game: 3/13/2014
Buffalo Sabres (19-38-8) at Carolina Hurricanes (28-28-9), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - With time winding down to make a run at a playoff spot, the Carolina Hurricanes aim to win back-to-back games for the first time since late January as they host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
The Hurricanes have not posted a winning streak since claiming four straight victories from Jan. 22-27. They have won just four times in 13 games since, including Tuesday's 3-1 decision over the New York Rangers.
Carolina went into the game having lost seven of its previous eight games, but got a goal and an assist from both Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty as well as 24 stops by Cam Ward. Rookie Elias Lindholm also scored.
Ward picked up his first victory since Dec. 31 and won for only the seventh time this season during an injury-marred campaign. Still, head coach Kirk Muller said on Tuesday that Ward is a key part to his team's success.
"The big word on sports teams is chemistry. For us to move forward here from now to the end, your best players have to come up big. He's one of the leaders of this team," said Muller about Ward. "I think he wanted it. He's looked more comfortable in the last three or four days."
Given those words, it is unknown if Ward or Anton Khudobin, who is 14-9-0 with a 2.31 goals against average this season, will start tonight.
Ward is 9-7-3 with a 2.85 GAA and two shutouts in 19 career games versus the Sabres, while Khudobin is 3-1-1 with a 1.98 GAA and one shutout against them.
Carolina's offense has netted at least three goals in four of the past five games. Staal has two goals and five points in his last three games, while fellow forward Alexander Semin has an assist in four straight and six points in his last five contests.
With 65 points, the Hurricanes are eight back of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Sabres are last in the NHL standings with just 46 points.
Buffalo has been outscored 8-2 over a three-game slide and has lost four of its past five overall. The Sabres were last in action on Tuesday, when they were bested by the visiting Nashville Predators 4-1.
Drew Stafford, skating in his 500th NHL game, scored on the power play just 2:09 into the game, but Buffalo's offense went silent from there despite Stafford's eighth goal and 14th point in his last 15 games.
Jhonas Enroth allowed three goals on 23 shots in the setback.
"We're not going to have anyone come in here and save us from this. We've got to pick ourselves up. We have what we have and we've got to work through it and we've got to get better," said Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan.
Enroth is 2-2-0 with a 2.49 GAA and one shutout in four previous games versus the Hurricanes, while the recently acquired Michal Neuvirth is 4-1-1 with a 2.57 GAA and one shutout against them.
The Sabres and Hurricanes are meeting for the third and final time this season having previously split a pair of encounters in Buffalo. That includes a 3-2 victory by the Sabres on Feb. 25 in Ryan Miller's final outing with the club before getting dealt to the St. Louis Blues.
The Hurricanes are 8-2-2 in the last 12 meetings overall and 8-3-1 in the previous 12 at home.
Semin has three goals in the two earlier meetings, while Stafford has three assists.
The Sabres have not won in Carolina since Nov. 18, 2011 and are trying to avoid their first four-game road slide in this series since dropping six in a row in Hartford from April 8, 1995-April 7, 1997.