Finding the bright side during a franchise-record losing streak isn't easy, but the Buffalo Sabres think they've done it.
Taking solace in that most of their 10 straight losses have been close, the Sabres try again to snap the skid when they host the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday.
Buffalo (19-19-6) set a season high with six consecutive victories from Dec. 12-22, but hasn't won since capping that run with a 6-5 shootout victory over Philadelphia. The Sabres now are in the midst of the longest losing streak in the franchise's 37-season history, and their longest winless streak since going 0-9-1 with two ties in a club-record tying run without a victory from Oct. 25-Nov. 19, 2002.
But Buffalo is slightly encouraged by its ability to keep games competitive. The Sabres have dropped five games in shootouts during the skid, and were within striking distance throughout Wednesday's 2-1 regulation loss to the New York Rangers.
"It's better than getting blown out," Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said after making 33 saves. "We're right there and it's something to build off of. It's frustrating any time you lose and when you put yourself in this kind of position in this league."
During its slide, Buffalo has lost just one game by more than two goals -- a 5-2 defeat at Atlanta (23-22-3) on Jan. 6.
"We have battled for some points and we're not that far out of it," Miller said. "Our competition out there was fine ... just things aren't quite clicking."
Perhaps the return of center Derek Roy can help the Sabres get back on track. Roy, tied for second on the team with 30 points, has missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, but practiced on Thursday.
"We put him in a full-go situation," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told the team's official Web site. "He's close to being able to return. We're hopeful that tomorrow comes along and he'll be able to play."
Roy had a goal and an assist in the Sabres' 6-0 win over the Thrashers on Oct. 11, but played only 9:22 in their loss at Atlanta earlier this month before the injury. He has three goals and eight assists in 12 career games against Atlanta.
The Thrashers are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to Montreal on Thursday night -- just their third defeat in 13 games decided after regulation.
"We've been pretty good in those situations," Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. "We didn't get that extra point, but we got one."
That point allowed Atlanta to pull ahead of Carolina and take the Southeast Division lead for the first time this season. Every team in the division has lost more games than it has won.
"Wins are hard to come by," Waddell said. "If we only give up two goals, we're going to win most of those games."
Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 4-4-1 with a 3.26 goals-against average in nine career games against Buffalo. Miller, meanwhile, is 5-2-2 with a 2.40 GAA in nine career games against the Thrashers.