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The Buffalo Sabres are struggling in net. For the rest of Buffalo's battered lineup, it comes at a bad time.
The Sabres hope to have leading goal-scorer Thomas Vanek available when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night after he missed practice to begin the week.
Vanek, who has 17 goals, missed practice Monday due to an upper-body injury. Coach Lindy Ruff said Vanek is likely to play Tuesday, but nine Buffalo players are injured and only 10 Sabres forwards skated in practice, prompting the club to call up Derek Whitmore and Marcus Foligno from AHL Rochester
"I think we can (overcome the injuries)," right wing Jason Pominville said. "We might need a priest to come in the room and give us a little more luck that way. But we don't want to use any excuses."
This is the fourth meeting between these Northeast Division rivals, with two of the first three having gone past regulation. After Buffalo won the first two, Ottawa defeated the Sabres 3-2 in overtime last Tuesday on Jared Cowen's goal 45 seconds into the extra session.
Despite the outcome, it was a rare solid defensive game for the Sabres this month. Buffalo (16-13-3) has dropped five of eight in December, giving up 31 goals in those contests with goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth both struggling.
Miller was pulled twice in an 8-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. He gave up five goals on 15 shots, although he was not charged with the loss. Enroth wasn't much better, stopping eight of 11 shots.
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It's been a tough season for Miller, who is 8-6-2 with a 3.12 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Nearly two years removed from the Vancouver Olympics and winning the Veznia Trophy, he ranks 37th among qualifying goaltenders in GAA and 32nd in save percentage.
While coach Lindy Ruff said he doesn't believe Miller is showing the effects of a November concussion, he also wouldn't rule out the possibility.
"I believe he's healthy, but I've definitely seen in the past guys come off head injuries and in some cases it's weeks, some cases it's even longer before they play well," Ruff said.
Ottawa (15-14-4) also played its last game against the Penguins, but with a better result, scoring five goals in the second period en route to a 6-4 win. Jason Spezza finished with two goals and two assists while Cowen added a goal and three assists.
The Senators, who will now try to win consecutive games for the first time this month, are also having defensive troubles. They've given up four or more goals five times in their last six games.
Center Kyle Turris, whom Ottawa acquired from Phoenix over the weekend, is hoping to debut for his new team Tuesday. The third overall pick in the 2007 draft, Turris had 25 points in 65 games last season for the Coyotes. He missed the beginning of this season due to a contract dispute, then played limited minutes in six games.
"It's a lot different (type of) pressure, but I'm ready for it and I'm excited to get started," Turris said.
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