Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 22, 2010

The Ottawa Senators are hoping they can start their climb out of the NHL basement with a win over division rival Buffalo, but they have yet to show they can string together three good periods of hockey.

Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 22, 2010
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators are hoping they can start their climb out of the NHL basement with a win over division rival Buffalo, but they have yet to show they can string together three good periods of hockey. It may be too early to panic, but general manager Bryan Murray obviously thought things were bad enough to warrant him stepping to the mic after practice Wednesday to give his players an ultimatum: Fix this or I will.

THE SUBPLOTS: Ottawa has struggled at every position, but nothing has been more disappointing than the defence corps’ performance. As such, the team sent centre Zack Smith to AHL Binghamton and called up veteran defenceman David Hale to try and calm things down. If anyone thinks a journeyman who has never averaged more than 15:47 of ice time in a season is a panacea, however, they are sadly mistaken.

THE WILDCARD: Brian Elliott, Senators. If anyone has an opportunity to post a solid outing against the Sabres, it’s him. Elliott has an 8-0 record lifetime against Friday’s opponent with a 1.89 GAA, .937 save percentage and one shutout. Of course, he also has a .863 save percentage and 4.62 GAA this season, so the past may not be indicative of his present ability to outduel Ryan Miller.

THE OPPONENT: The Sabres (2-4-1)  were in the exact same situation as the Senators until they stopped the bleeding with a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers Wednesday. Can they keep it going? A lot of that depends on top defenceman Tyler Myers finding his Calder Trophy form from a season ago. This year he’s a minus-seven with just two points.

THE QUOTE: “We play well in that barn and we get some goaltending there and Brian has a lot of confidence in that building against that team. And, if you combine those two factors, that’s going to give you some success. We hope that continues.” — Senators coach Cory Clouston on the Senators’ long-term success against the Sabres. They’ve won four straight games in Buffalo.

THE USELESS (BUT KINDA COOL) FACTOID: The first puck will drop at the HSBC Arena to kick off the 2011 World Junior Championships in 64 days, and it should be a wild ride. More than 10,000 all-session passes have already been sold and the organizers aren’t anticipating a need to offer single game tickets once they’ve run through all the mini-packs. That means a house of rabid fans for all the big contests and a very intimidating environment for any player not sporting red, white and blue.

THE SICK BAY: Senators — D Filip Kuba (broken leg, three weeks). G Pascal Leclaire (groin, indefinite). Sabres — RW Jason Pominville (concussion, indefinite), Shaone Morrisonn (groin, questionable).

THE PREDICTION: Despite all the tough talk from Bryan Murray about possible trades and the tough practice from coach Cory Clouston, I’m not convinced the Senators can turn on a dime — especially not in Buffalo against Miller. I think they’ll be better, however, setting the stage for a win at home Saturday night. Senators 2, Sabres 3, with overtime a strong possibility.

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