An initially dominating defense has given way to a suddenly prolific offense, but victories have remained the constant for the Buffalo Sabres in the early going.
They'll try to win their fifth straight and remain the NHL's only team without a regulation loss Saturday night as they face the visiting Atlanta Thrashers, who will hope to build on an impressive road victory of their own.
The Sabres (4-0-1) managed just four goals in their first three games, but they were 2-0-1 thanks to a defense -- anchored by goalie Ryan Miller -- that allowed three total goals in that stretch.
The pressure has been taken off Miller in the last two games, with Buffalo totaling 12 goals in victories over Detroit and the New York Islanders.
The club scored twice in each period and had six different goal-scorers in Friday night's 6-3 win over the Islanders, chasing New York goalie Dwayne Roloson while Miller made 36 saves.
"We're just playing good hockey," Miller said. "I'm enjoying it, and I hope we can keep it up all year."
The Sabres are off to a hot start for the second straight season after they were 6-0-1 to open 2008-09, but they haven't won five consecutive games since a six-game run Dec. 12-22, 2007.
They also haven't beaten Atlanta since a 10-1 home win on Jan. 18, 2008, going 0-0-5 in the last five matchups. Buffalo lost twice in overtime and twice in shootouts to the Thrashers last season.
Atlanta (3-1-0) didn't need extra time to beat Martin Brodeur and New Jersey on Friday, scoring three third-period goals in a 4-2 victory. Rich Peverley scored twice, including the game-winner, as the former castoff now has four goals and two assists in four games.
Peverley had 35 points in 39 games for the Thrashers last season after the team claimed him off waivers from Nashville, and he helped his team win Friday even though star forward Ilya Kovalchuk had no points and was a minus-two.
Kovalchuk had five goals in the first three games.
"That just shows the kind of depth we have," Peverley said. "We have tremendous players on every line that can score. That's important. (Kovalchuk) scores a lot, but when he doesn't score it's nice to know other guys can chip in."
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has also made major contributions for Atlanta with starter Kari Lehtonen still recovering from back surgery. The 22-year-old made 28 stops against the Devils and has played every minute this season.
"If you're winning, you don't feel tired," Pavelec said.
The Thrashers have been well rested, having played a league-low four games. Friday's contest was their first in six days, and their 4-2 loss at Ottawa last Saturday came in the only game they've played with fewer than four days of rest.
"We've kind of had a weird schedule here, maybe one of the weirdest ones I've ever seen," winger Colby Armstrong said. "We've had so much time off, it doesn't even feel like the season has really started."
According to Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, high-scoring forward Thomas Vanek could be back in the lineup for the Sabres after missing one game due to an upper-body injury.