Top line fuels Hurricanes ahead of clash with Sabres

A line that's been clicking recently just might help the Carolina Hurricanes escape from the bottom of their division.

Behind Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina goes for its fourth straight win over the slumping Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at KeyBank Center.

Though Carolina (7-6-4) and Buffalo (5-10-4) are in last place in the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions, respectively, the Hurricanes appear to be on the upswing even after giving up three third-period goals in a 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

"I don't think we got started on time," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "(Down) 3-1, then we found a way to come back."

The comeback was fueled by the Aho-Staal-Teravainen line, which totaled a goal and five assists. The trio has been difficult to contain while lifting the Hurricanes to 3-1-1 record over their last five games.

Teravainen leads the way with three goals -- courtesy of his first career hat trick Monday in a win over the Dallas Stars -- and five assists. Staal also has eight points during the hot stretch, including six assists over his last two games. Aho, a 24-goal scorer as a rookie last season, collected his first two tallies of the season in the last two contests to go with four helpers.

"I think that line has been dangerous, and they've been dangerous for a long time," Peters told the Hurricanes' official website. "Now they're starting to roll a little bit. ... We're going to need more than one line being productive and getting it done, especially on the road."

Carolina is 4-4-1 away from home.

But none of the three players generated much success in three wins over the Sabres last season. Teravainen failed to register a point while Staal and Aho combined for a goal and two assists.

Jeff Skinner, the 'Canes current leader with nine goals, scored three times and added an assist in the season series. The eight-year veteran also has two goals and an assist in a three-game points streak.

Scott Darling (5-4-4, 2.57 goals-against average, .905 save percentage) has seen most of the time in net for the Hurricanes. But after he yielded a season-high five goals on Thursday, don't be surprised if longtime veteran Cam Ward gets the call in this contest.

Ward, the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who is three wins short of 300 for his career, beat Buffalo in all three matchups last season, turning away 81 of 85 shots.

The Sabres return to western New York looking to avoid their fifth straight loss after falling 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

"We've got to be smarter," coach Phil Housley told the Buffalo News. "We just got outbattled, outworked and outcompeted tonight. At times we even looked slow and I don't know why that is. We played one game in six nights. It's disappointing."

Buffalo is 2-1-1 in the second of back-to-back games, but 2-4-1 at home in 2017-18.

"We're going to have to right the ship because Carolina is a pretty good hockey team right now with pretty good balance. We've got an opportunity to start this four-game homestand the right way, but we've got to come to work," Housley said.

The Sabres failed to score more than one goal for the fourth time in six games, posting an 0-3-1 record. Buffalo is 30th in the NHL with 43 goals, and also the only team to average fewer than two goals per game at home (1.86) despite having Evander Kane (team-high 10 goals) and Jack Eichel -- the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft -- on the roster.

Ryan O'Reilly, who scored Friday, managed one assist in three games, and only Kane and Johan Larsson among players currently on the team notched goals versus the 'Canes last season.

Robin Lehner made 30 saves against Detroit, but has allowed 10 goals while going 0-2-1 in his last three starts. The 26-year-old lost his only career matchup with Carolina while playing for Buffalo.

Chad Johnson is 0-2-2 with a 3.72 GAA and .891 save percentage in his last four starts. However, the veteran journeyman is 7-1-0 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage in his eight-year career versus the Hurricanes.

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