BUFFALO -- Senators sniper Dany Heatley has fared very well in duels with the Sabres' swords.
Against Buffalo this season alone, he has five goals and seven assists in five games. That gives the Ottawa star 32 points, including 15 goals, in 23 career outings vs. the Sabres.
Heatley has no real explanation for the success against goalie Ryan Miller, nor does he care to dwell on the topic. For inevitably, it brings back some not-so-fond memories of his school days.
"We've had a good battle over the years," said Heatley, a former University of Wisconsin Badger who faced Miller twice when he was with Michigan State University. "They ended our run the one year."
Did you score on him?
"Not in that game," said Heatley. "Maybe the first game, I'm not sure."
Did he stone you?
"Probably. I don't remember. All I remember is losing."
Of course, Miller closed the door on mostly everybody when he was at Michigan State. In 1999-00, he was 16-4-3 with a 1.36 GAA. In 2000-01, he was 31-5-4 with a 1.32 GAA and a .950 save percentage. His last year, his pace slipped as he was a mere 26-9-5 with a 1.77 GAA.
Heatley, who scored 52 goals in 77 games at Wisconsin, had a little fun jabbing Miller at last month's all-star game, referring to the 6-3 beating Ottawa gave Buffalo on Jan. 3. Heatley, you might remember, put three past Miller that night.
"I was bugging him (at the all-star game) ... (but) I generally think that he has my number," said Heatley.
"This year I've seemed to get a few bounces on him. He's a good goaltender, he plays his style very well, he's a big guy. You've got to make great shots to beat him."
Clearly, Heatley's shot has improved since college.
BUBBLING CAULDRON: There's nothing like a game against the Maple Leafs or Canadiens to transform Scotiabank Place from a cathedral-quiet building to a juiced-up arena. But Jason Spezza says the Sabres are becoming the team that gets his motor pumping fastest. "We play each other eight times, we've played each other in the playoffs ... we're very similar teams and we play similar games," said Spezza. "We're slowly becoming pretty big rivals." As big as the rivalry is with the Leafs? "I look at it as the games (with Buffalo) are just as important. We play each other so much we almost have more bad blood with them than we do with Toronto in recent years." But who is Buffalo's Darcy Tucker? What Sabre does Spezza like least? "All of them," he said with a laugh.
THIS, THAT AND ANOTHER THING: If you think Chris Kelly is even slightly bothered with being replaced by Spezza on the team's big line -- between Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson -- then you'd be wrong. "I'm not really thinking about that," said Kelly, who combined with the Dans to carry the Senators when Spezz and Mike Fisher were injured. "Obviously, there are times when you're going to throw Spezza on that line -- I think it's most times when we're down. And why wouldn't you? They are three very talented hockey players and with the success they had last year, you're looking for a spark, or for them to go out and work their magic. I think every move (coach) Bryan (Murray) makes is to help this team win." Judging by the way they practised yesterday, Kelly will remain between Alfredsson and Heatley to start tonight's game, at least ... W Patrick Eaves was still favouring an injured ankle when he arrived at the rink yesterday. He didn't practise, making his participation in tonight's game questionable. If Eaves can't go, Murray will insert either Brian McGrattan or Denis Hamel ...GM John Muckler was expected to fly in from Florida and join the team in Buffalo today ... With three games in four days against the teams they trail in their division, Ray Emery is expected to be a busy man. There would figure to be little chance for Martin Gerber before Valentine's Day, when the Panthers are in Ottawa.