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DIVISION SCHEDULE HEATS UP

Friday, 11.11.2011 / 1:33 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE
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THE MORNING SKATE
DIVISION SCHEDULE HEATS UP
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Having played only two divisional games so far this season, the Buffalo Sabres are about to kick off a stretch in which their next three opponents are Northeast Division rivals.

At the First Niagara Center tonight, the Sabres will take on the Ottawa Senators, a team they defeated in a shootout a week ago on the road.

Winger Nathan Gerbe recorded an assist in that game and said today after practice that playing an opponent twice in short span of times ups the ante a bit against that team.

“Even in our division, it’s always going to be intense,” Gerbe said. “These games are going to be a lot bigger than some games we play. In terms of in your division, you want to be the leader in your division so I think these are always physical and intense games.”

Buffalo is currently second in their division with 18 points, three behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. After tonight’s game, the Sabres will travel to Boston for a Saturday night match-up against the Bruins and then to Montreal for a game on Monday.

“You know the magnitude of these games and how nice they are to win,” Gerbe said. “We just have to focus on playing 60 minutes and the rest will take care of itself.”



In light of that stretch of games, head coach Lindy Ruff has referred back to his goaltending schedule to determine which games his two net-minders will start. Tonight, it will be Jhonas Enroth between the pipes. Enroth stopped 25 of 27 shots in Ottawa on Saturday.

“We’ve put together a schedule and we’ve got a busy schedule ahead of us. So we’re going to try to stick to it,” Ruff said.

The Senators have lost their last four games after winning six in a row while Buffalo is looking to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games. Enroth said after practice that having some recent familiarity with Ottawa has helped him prepare for tonight’s game.

“I wouldn’t say [it makes it] easier but maybe [I have] a little bit more confidence knowing I beat that team,” Enroth said. “Otherwise, it’s a good team. They haven’t been playing that well lately, but they’re probably excited to get a couple of good games in.”

Enroth also explained that playing regularly and not sitting for maybe two weeks at a time on the bench is an opportunity he relishes.

“I’m just trusting myself, trusting my skill set. I’m just trying to take every chance I get,” he said. “I had a pretty good summer with working out and stuff so I’m feeling stronger. It’s fun to play right now.”

The Sabres have won seven of their last eight games against the Senators. Previously, Buffalo had lost their last nine contests against them. Ruff said that finding an answer to what’s changed is tough.

“Those are always hard questions to answer. It’s the same question we tried to answer when we couldn’t beat them,” Ruff said. “Sometimes I think there’s a little luck involved. Sometimes you get rolling pretty good against a team and they rolled pretty good against us and then we’ve had our fair shake now.”



Nathan Gerbe has provided a different military member from Western New York with a pair of tickets to each home game this season as a part of the Tickets for Troops program and that will continue for tonight’s Veteran’s Day game.

“They’re very, very appreciative, but I think, more so, I’m appreciative of what they do for our country,” Gerbe said. “I can’t imagine how difficult that is and the battles and just the mindset you have to go through every single day for what they do. [It’s] just pretty impressive. More so, talking to them, it kind of inspires me.”

The Sabres will also wear special camouflage jerseys during warm-ups before tonight’s game that will later be auctioned off at Sabres.com.

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