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Sabres Notebook: Back-to-backs; defense scratches; Johnson's new gear

The Buffalo Sabres are no strangers to back-to-back games. Coach Phil Housley is learning they perform better on the second night.

The Sabres are in the midst of their ninth set of back-to-backs. After hosting Philadelphia on Friday, they are heading to Carolina to meet the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Buffalo entered the two-day run with a 2-6 record on the first night and 2-4-2 mark on the second.

"We just keep the game simpler," Housley said of earning more points during the finales. "We try to save the energy, make the right decisions and use our energy in the right direction. Most of those games were on the road, and you're just trying to play a simple game."

The Sabres will look to add more points against a surging Carolina team. The Hurricanes are 4-1 in their last five games, including a 4-1 victory in Nashville on Thursday and a 5-4 victory in Buffalo last week.

Goaltender Cam Ward is 6-0-1 in his last eight appearances, with one no-decision.

"When you get the opportunity to get in the net, you want to make the most of it," Ward said. "I'm just trying to do my job. Winning is fun."

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It's not easy for anyone when a team carries eight defensemen. Two players get scratched, and Housley needs to decide who they are.

That's the state of the back end in Buffalo. All eight blue-liners are healthy, leading to nightly decisions.

Housley sent Victor Antipin and Justin Falk to the sidelines Friday. Falk sat for the third straight game, while Antipin watched for the fourth time in six outings.

Josh Gorges, who was scratched in the previous two, replaced Antipin and skated with Nathan Beaulieu.

"It's difficult to tell somebody they're not playing," Housley said. "Everybody's got pride, but you're in a position where you have to make decisions and changes if we're not winning. We're just trying to find that winning formula.

"We're finally healthy as a group back there, and it's difficult to make decisions. But that also breeds some internal competition, so they know they have to be sharp and bring their A-plus game."

Inside the Sabres: Patrick Kaleta's motor is still revving

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The Flyers entered KeyBank Center on a 7-1 run. That was preceded by a 10-game winless skid that dropped their record to 8-11-7.

What changed?

"We got drunk," forward Jakub Voracek told NHL.com after Friday's morning skate. "That helped. We sat down together, we talked about some stuff we wanted to do better. We had some heart-to-hearts, and it worked out."

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Chad Johnson is ready for the Winter Classic.

The Sabres' backup goaltender has new equipment for the New Year's Day game against the New York Rangers. The highlight is undoubtedly his pads.

Johnson has a sword starting at the base of each pad, and they crisscross at the midpoint to finish on the other pad. The predominantly white gear has blue and gold accents and Johnson's No. 31 on the glove, blocker, helmet and pads.

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