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Two big points on the line as Sabres visit Carolina

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM


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Two big points on the line as Sabres visit Carolina
Buffalo Sabres vs. Carolina Hurricanes

SABRES (30-25-7) at HURRICANES (30-25-9)

TV -- MSG-B (HD), FS-Carolinas (HD)

Last 10 -- Buffalo 5-3-2; Carolina 4-4-2.

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between two teams fighting tooth-and-nail for one of the Eastern Conference's playoff seeds. In their first meeting on Jan. 13, Drew Stafford scored the winner as Ryan Miller made 27 stops to seal a 3-2 Sabres win in Buffalo. After this pivotal Thursday-night matchup, these teams will square off twice more in the next month.

Big story -- While it's not quite as cluttered as the Western Conference, the East is turning into a spirited race. Coming into Thursday's game, Carolina held eighth-place in the Conference by two points over the Sabres, who hold two games in hand over Carolina.

But Buffalo might be looking past the Conference's final playoff spot. With a big 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden, the Sabres put themselves within three points of the seventh-place Rangers with three games in hand. With one more game against the Rangers along with the additional matchups against Carolina, Buffalo could make a move. But it won’t be easy, as the win at MSG marked the beginning of a season-long seven-game road trip.

Team Scope:

Sabres -- Against the Rangers on Tuesday, Jochen Hecht's third-period goal proved to be the winner as Ryan Miller made 24 saves in the second and third period alone to preserve the big 3-2 win. The game also marked the arrival of forward Brad Boyes, who was acquired from the Blues on Deadline Day in exchange for a second-round pick.

Boyes scored a goal in his Buffalo debut, giving the Sabres offense the jolt Buffalo was hoping for when they acquired him from St. Louis. Playing on a line with Tyler Ennis and Tim Connolly, Boyes made an impression on his new team.

Hurricanes -- The Hurricanes were able to hold on to the final playoff spot thanks to a 2-1 win over the Panthers on Tuesday.

Against Florida, Eric Staal’s team-leading 28th goal held up thanks to a sparkling 41-save performance by Cam Ward, highlighted by 18 stops in the third period alone. Despite the win, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was not pleased by his team's 22-shot performance.

"The biggest mistake that you make in this League is to take a look at a team and think that it somehow will get easy," said Maurice. "It’s just not an easy sport, and that's what's great about it."

Who's hot -- Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera has 4 points in his last two games while Hecht has 4 points in his current four-game point streak. … For Carolina, Cory Stillman has 3 points in three games since being traded before the deadline. Winger Erik Cole has 5 points in four games since a forgettable performance Feb 19 against New Jersey in which he registered a minus-4 rating. 

Injury report -- Buffalo defenseman Jordan Leopold missed Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury and Derek Roy (quad surgery) is on IR. … Carolina is fielding a healthy lineup.

Stat pack -- Boyes should be chomping at the bit for a potential playoff run. Despite having played close to 500 NHL regular-season games, Boyes has only four playoff games on his resume. But he made them count, registering 2 goals and an assist for the Blues in a 2009 first-round sweep at the hands of the Canucks.

Puck drop -- So how long has Lindy Ruff, the League's most-tenured coach, been at the helm of the Sabres? So long that his first season behind the Buffalo bench, was also the first-ever season for the then-recently-relocated Carolina Hurricanes. That 1997-98 season saw the 'Canes miss the playoffs and the Sabres make it to the conference final before being eliminated in six games by Washington. 

2010-2011 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 03 '11 BUF 2 at CAR 1 - OT M. Gragnani
Mar 15 '11 CAR 1 at BUF 0 B. Sutter
Mar 03 '11 BUF 2 at CAR 3 - OT J. McBain
Jan 13 '11 CAR 2 at BUF 3 D. Stafford
T. Vanek63232952-91694
B. Boyes64142943+123052
D. Stafford45241438+43093
T. Ennis63132336+02041
J. Pominville54152035-61551
D. Roy35102535-11621
J. Leopold60112233-33230
T. Myers61101828-93035
J. Hecht63111627+13804
T. Connolly4981927-102031
P. Gaustad6391221+68202
S. Montador5851520+147100
N. Gerbe4571118+32820
A. Sekera5921618-11400
C. McCormick628917+412101
M. Grier6351015+21000
R. Niedermayer5201313-22000
M. Weber423710+105600
P. Kaleta48448-47600
S. Morrisonn49145-22601
C. Butler32055+21200
L. Adam18314-41001
C. Rivet23123-51200
P. Byron8112+0200
M. Mancari3011-1000
M. Ellis8000-2000
C. Stuart3000+1200
M. Gragnani3000+1200
R. Miller5327-18-713816002.65.914
J. Enroth63-2-1151602.69.906
P. Lalime70-5-0181632.96.890
E. Staal64283361-1160107
J. Skinner65222648-23662
T. Ruutu65153045-54661
J. Jokinen53162844+12071
E. Cole65182240+34127
J. Corvo65102333-131451
J. Pitkanen5622729-25000
S. Samsonov58101626+01240
C. Stillman4891726+72011
J. McBain6552025-62811
B. Sutter65121224+141212
C. LaRose65121224-185310
P. Dwyer638917-61202
I. White5521416-61810
T. Gleason6521113-117100
J. Tlusty406612+41200
B. Allen554812-46501
J. Harrison62369+66200
A. Babchuk17358-41211
Z. Boychuk23437-2411
R. Carter50156-44400
D. Joslin20156+1800
Z. Dalpe15314+0001
T. Kostopoulos17134-13000
T. Bodie55033-66100
J. Matsumoto13202-4400
J. Samson8022+1000
P. O'Sullivan10101-1200
B. Sutter5011-1500
B. Carson13000+7400
D. Bowman8000+1600
B. Rodney3000+0200
C. Ward5828-21-815018702.68.920
J. Peters113-4-1383143.88.879