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The Carolina Hurricanes will be playing the second game of a back-to-back situation when they entertain the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena on Saturday night. Carolina had won 10 of its last 13 contests (10-2-1) heading into a road date with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. The Sabres saw their losing streak hit six games with Thursday’s setback against Pittsburgh.
Shut out three times in a row
Buffalo has lost six straight games (0-5-1), including the last three by shutout after falling 5-0 to Pittsburgh at home on Thursday. That has all but dropped the Sabres out of contention for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference despite going on a 10-game winning streak earlier in the season.
“It’s proven to work earlier this (season), so this is a frustrating time for us,” forward Conor Sheary said of his team’s system. “We’re obviously not feeling great about ourselves. We just have to come to the rink ready to work each day and hopefully put out a better effort Saturday.”
Jeff Skinner leads Buffalo with 36 goals, one shy of his career high in 2016-17 with Carolina, but is mired in a 13-game drought and has not scored a point in four contests. Forward Sam Reinhart is stuck on 58 points after going without one for six games, while rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has been kept off the scoresheet in seven contests this month.
Rare regulation loss
The Hurricanes hope to resume their surge toward a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on the heels of a tough loss when they open a five-game home-stand against the fading Sabres. Carolina produced 46 shots but suffered its second regulation loss in 10 games (7-2-1) with a 3-0 setback at Columbus on Friday to fall into a virtual tie with the Blue Jackets for the top wild-card spot–with both sitting two points ahead of ninth-place Montreal.
“I think it’s a mental challenge this time of year,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said before Friday’s game. “The guys have been grinding so hard, especially our group from where we’ve come from. We had to put it in high gear about game 30. Other teams had the luxury of not having to press that early. But we’ve pressed pretty hard and that takes a mental toll.”
"It's one of those nights now, and we've got to put it behind us."https://t.co/nyuSh76oUK
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) March 16, 2019
The Hurricanes go after their ninth straight victory in the series after picking up a pair of one-goal wins this season while the Sabres are suffering through a stretch of 197 minutes, 40 seconds of scoreless hockey. Sebastian Aho leads the team with 77 points, including six goals and four assists in the past 10 games. Fellow forward Teuvo Teravainen posted four assists in the past three games to push his point total to 65. Power forward Micheal Ferland (17 goals, 35 points) recorded five shots in his return to the lineup Friday after missing the previous two games with an upper-body injury.
The Carolina Hurricanes are:
- 23-9 in their last 32 overall
- 10-4 in their last 14 home games
- 8-0 in their last eight games playing on no days of rest
The Buffalo Sabres are:
- 7-20 in their last 27 overall
- 5-17 in their last 22 games playing on one day of rest
- 8-21 in their last 29 games against the Eastern Conference
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Buffalo forward Alex Nylander, the eight overall pick in the 2016 draft, has one shot in two games since being recalled. Defenseman Zach Bogosian (upper body) missed Thursday’s game and is listed as questionable. Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce leads the team with a plus-29 and has three assists in the last three games. Buffalo is 0-4 in its last four on the road against opponents with winning home records and 0-4 in its last four trips to Carolina. The Hurricanes are 4-0 in their last four against losing opponents and 8-0 in the last eight meetings between the two teams. It is also worth noting that the favorite is 6-0 in the last six head-to-head matchups.
Prediction: Carolina Hurricanes
Full-Game Total Pick
Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek made 17 saves Friday to take the loss and end his six-game winning streak and that could give Saturday’s start to veteran Curtis McElhinney, who has allowed 12 goals in his last two outings. Buffalo captain Jack Eichel is eligible to return to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit. The 22-year-old center leads the team with a career-high 72 points to sit two away from 100 career goals. The over is 7-3 in the Sabres’ last 10 overall, 4-1 in their last five on the road, and 5-1 in their last six against the Eastern Conference. It is also 6-1 in the Hurricanes’ last seven overall and 6-2-1 in their last nine playing on no days of rest. Additionally, the over is 4-0 in the last four meetings between the two teams and 15-5-1 in Buffalo’s last 21 trips to Carolina. Look for this one to go over the total.