It's been a long and grinding road for the Anaheim Ducks since they opened the season across the Atlantic Ocean against the Buffalo Sabres.
Having worked their way back into the playoff picture, the Ducks look to rebound tonight against a Sabres club with the same goal in mind.
Anaheim and Buffalo opened the 2011-12 season against each other back on Oct. 7 in Helsinki, Finland. The Sabres rode a three-point performance from Thomas Vanek to a 4-1 win, their second in a row over the Ducks and 10th in the last 16 encounters.
That setback was part of a 7-13-4 start for the Ducks under Randy Carlyle, who was fired and replaced by former Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. The switch behind the bench has paid off as the Ducks have gone 17-5-4 since Jan. 1, lowering their deficit for a playoff spot from 17 points to just six.
Anaheim, though, is coming off a 4-1 defeat at Colorado on Monday, yielding three goals in the third frame. Bobby Ryan had the lone goal and Jonas Hiller yielded four goals on 23 shots.
The Ducks were in action the night before, logging a home win over the Blackhawks on the heels of an eight-game road trip.
"It's tough with the way the schedule is, but that's just part of the game," said Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf. "Sometimes you have easy schedules, sometimes you don't. That's on us with the way we came out in the third. That's a good team over there taking advantage of the opportunities we gave them."
Buffalo, which has lost three straight in Anaheim, sits seven points back of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and was denied a fourth straight victory on Saturday thanks to a 3-2 overtime defeat at the New York Rangers.
Drew Stafford scored both goals for Buffalo, which still has points in five straight (3-0-2). Ryan Miller made 25 saves in the opener of a five-game road trip.
"Our guys misconnected on a few plays there and that was the difference," said Miller.
Though the Sabres haven't been in game action since Saturday, there was still plenty going on around the club prior to Monday's trade deadline. Buffalo parted ways with physical center Paul Gaustad, sending him and a fourth-round pick to Nashville for a first-round selection in 2012.
The Sabres also pulled off a deal with the Canucks, sending winger Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver for center Cody Hodgson and blueliner Alexander Sulzer.
Hodgson, the 10th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, has registered 16 goals and 17 assists in 63 games this season. Kassian, the 13th player taken in 2009, appeared in 27 games for Buffalo this year, collecting three goals and seven points.
"We need a better show out of our top forwards on the road to use these games in hand to climb right back in the picture. I know we're getting a real good player. I've heard nothing but good about Hodgson on the offensive side of it. I've told the team that there is some guys who are going to get a bigger role, some guys will get different roles," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
Ruff hopes his club can turn it on tonight and get its first victory in Anaheim since Oct. 24, 2003.