Hurricanes at Sabres: Game preview 1-7-14

USA TODAY Sports

The Hurricanes are riding a four game winning streak, but the Sabres have won five in a row at First Niagara Center. Something has to give in Buffalo, will Skinner's hot play be a difference maker?

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Sabres

Jan. 7, 2014- 7:00 p.m. ET

First Niagara Center- Buffalo, NY

TV- Fox Sports Carolinas

Radio- 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: (Die By The Blade) Twitter: (@diebytheblade)

Hurricanes record: 18-16-9 (45 points)

Sabres record: 12-26-4 (28 points)

The Hurricanes bring a season-long four game winning streak into a road matchup with the Sabres on Tuesday.

It is Carolina’s first of three meetings with Buffalo this season, who has collected 28 points on the year- a league low.

Buffalo has found a way to win games at home recently, however. After starting the year 0-8-1 on home ice, the Sabres have steadied to win five consecutive games in First Niagara Center.

The Hurricanes have been led by NHL first star of the week, Jeff Skinner. Skinner has seven multi-goal games in his past 16 games played and is riding a five-game point streak.

Skinner became the first player since the franchise relocated to score 16 goals in 16 games. Blaine Stoughton last did so in 1981-82 for the Hartford Whalers.

"He’s scoring, but he is scoring clutch goals. That’s a difference as well. The guys that we needed to score (against the Islanders) in a grinding-type game—three games in four nights—came through for us," coach Kirk Muller said in an interview with NHL.com.

Carolina has lost only once to Buffalo in regulation in the past 10 meetings, going 7-1-2.

However, the Sabres now have Matt Moulson at their disposal after a trade with the Islanders in October. Moulson is a career point-per game player against the Hurricanes (8 goals, 12 assists in 20 games).

Tuesday will be a homecoming for Nathan Gerbe and Andrej Sekera who, before joining Carolina this season, spent multiple years in the Buffalo organization.

Gerbe, who was signed in July by Carolina as a free agent, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo.

With the Hurricanes this season, Gerbe has seen time on the second line centered by Jordan Staal.

Gerbe has played 43 games for Carolina this season, tallying nine goals and 11 assists.

Andrej Sekera was drafted in the third round of the 2004 draft by Buffalo, and was acquired by the Hurricanes through a trade that sent the Sabres defensemen Jamie McBain and a second-round pick in the 2013 draft.

Sekera has played in 41 games and leads the Hurricanes in scoring by defensemen with seven goals. He also has 17 assists. He will represent Slovakia in the Olympics in Sochi.

In three career games against the Hurricanes, goaltender Jhonas Enroth is 2-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA.

However, after being named to the USA Olympic team, Ryan Miller has elevated his play. In his past five starts, he is 3-1-1 with a .951 save percentage.

Carolina’s Anton Khudobin remains undefeated on the season at 5-0-0 and has a 1.99 GAA and a .940 save percentage.

Khudobin has seen the Sabres four times, going 2-1-1 with a 1.73 GAA and a shutout.

Miller will join Carolina’s Justin Faulk on team USA this February. The 21-year old Faulk leads the Hurricanes in average time on ice per game (24:10) and blocked shots (68).

Tuomo Ruutu will represent Finland in the Olympics, as well.

Carolina will be without Eric Staal who sustained a lower-body injury against the Islanders and did not make the trip to Buffalo. Sitting out against the Predators on Sunday snapped Staal’s streak of 191 consecutive games played- seventh in franchise history.

Muller said Staal is day-to-day and will work to get ready to come back.

Cam Ward, Riley Nash and Jiri Tlusty are on injured reserve. Tlusty and Nash skated on Jan. 6.

The Sabres will be without Tyler Meyers, who was suspended three games for a high hit on Dainius Zubrus.

After the Sabres, the Hurricanes will prepare for a back-to-back that puts them against the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Puck drop tonight is set for 7:00 p.m. We hope you will join us on our open thread that will open up at 6:30 p.m.

Check out Coach Muller post-practice audio as you prepare for tonight's matchup.

Sabres Projected Lines:

Matt Moulson- Tyler Ennis- Zemgus Girgensons

Steve Ott- Johan Larsson- Matt D'Agostini

Linus Omark- Brian Flynn- Marcus Foligno

Matt Ellis- Zenon Konopka- Ville Leino

Mark Pysyk- Christian Ehrhoff

Tyler Myers- Mike Weber

Jamie McBain- Brayden McNabb

Ryan Miller

Jhonas Enroth

Hurricanes projected lines:

Tuomo Ruutu- Jeff Skinner- Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe- Jordan Staal- Patrick Dwyer

Drayson Bowman- Manny Malhotra- Radek Dvorak

Zach Boychuk- Brett Sutter- Aaron Palushaj

Andrej Sekera- Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey- Brett Bellemore

John-Michael Liles- Ryan Murphy

Anton Khudobin

Justin Peters

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