|Date of game: 1/25/2014
Buffalo Sabres (13-29-7) at Columbus Blue Jackets (26-20-4), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The hottest team in the NHL gets to play the league's basement dwellers on Saturday, as the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets host the lowly Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus has set a club record with eight straight wins and has vaulted into a playoff spot as a result of the run. The Blue Jackets have made the postseason just once in their history and that playoff appearance in the spring of 2009 resulted in a four-game sweep at the hands of Detroit.
The Blue Jackets are currently sitting third in the Metropolitan Division, with the top-three clubs in each division getting automatic bids to the playoffs. Although Columbus is tied with Philadelphia in points, the Blue Jackets, who beat the Flyers in regulation on Thursday, took control of the third automatic spot in the Metro because they hold the current tiebreaker due to having played two less games than Philly.
The Blue Jackets notched a 5-2 win over the Flyers to record their eighth consecutive triumph. Columbus has scored four or more goals in four straight tilts and is averaging 4.38 scores per game over the course of this winning streak.
Brandon Dubinsky and Nathan Horton scored early in the third period to help the Blue Jackets earn Thursday's win, which came in the franchise's 1,000th game. Jack Johnson, Derek MacKenzie and Matt Calvert also lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets.
Ex-Philadelphia goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky faced his former club for the first time and picked up the win thanks to 26 saves.
The victory also was the club's fifth straight on home ice. Columbus is 14-9-2 as the host this season and is wrapping a three-game homestand on Saturday.
"This is a credit to our players. We've talked as a group about playing better at home and creating an identity," said Columbus head coach Todd Richards.
The Blue Jackets also are 9-1-0 since Horton made his season debut on Jan. 2. Horton, who signed a seven-year, $37.1 million to join Columbus in the offseason, has four goals and three assists in his first 10 games in a Blue Jackets sweater.
While Columbus enters Saturday firing on all cylinders, the Sabres are still stuck in neutral. Buffalo has lost five in a row, six of seven and eight of its last 10 games and the Sabres are dead last in the league with just 33 points through 49 games.
Buffalo lost the first four games on its current slide by identical 4-3 scores and lost a 5-3 decision Thursday against visiting Carolina. Alexander Semin and Andrej Sekera scored 2:25 apart in the third period to lift the Hurricanes to the comeback victory at First Niagara Center. Tyler Ennis gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead 48 seconds into the third, but the Hurricanes scored the game's final three goals to win going away.
"We're finding ways to lose hockey games rather than finding ways to win," said Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan.
Jhonas Enroth stopped 28 shots for Buffalo, which is 0-3-2 during its current slide. Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn also scored in the loss.
The Sabres have lost 12 of their last 13 games as the guest and are just 4-14-3 on the road this season. Buffalo is playing two straight and four of its next five tests away from First Niagara Center.
The Blue Jackets are 2-0 against the Sabres this season and will cap the season series tonight at home after playing the previous two tilts in Buffalo. Columbus has won three in a row and seven of the past 10 meetings in this matchup and the Sabres are 1-4-0 with a tie in six all-time trips to Nationwide Arena.