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Game Preview: Jets vs Sabres

by Staff Writer / Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets' stellar homestand boosted their playoff chances, but they still have plenty of work to do over their final three games to secure a postseason berth.

For the second straight year, the Buffalo Sabres will be watching the playoffs from home.

Winnipeg looks to improve its postseason chances by earning a sixth straight victory over host Buffalo on Monday night.

The Jets followed a season-worst four-game losing streak by going 5-0-1 on their homestand, which concluded Saturday with a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

Winnipeg (23-19-3) trails the New York Rangers by one point for the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot and Washington by three for the Southeast Division lead.

The Jets, who play at Washington on Tuesday, have only qualified for the postseason once - in 2006-07, when the franchise was located in Atlanta.

"I think it's a point gained (rather than a point lost)," coach Claude Noel said. "We could've gotten none and we got one, so let's move forward and try and win the next game. We're not doing the math, we're just trying to win. Guys know what's at stake."

Captain Andrew Ladd, who has four goals and 10 assists during a seven-game point streak, believes Winnipeg is in the right frame of mind heading down the stretch.

"We're going to stay positive and focus on Buffalo now," Ladd said. "It's easy to sit there and dwell on what we could've done, but we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves."

The Jets have outscored the Sabres 15-5 while holding Buffalo to one goal in each of the last five meetings, including a 2-1 win Feb. 19 and a 4-1 victory April 9.

Ladd has scored in each of the last four matchups, and the Sabres will look to slow him down after having their three-game winning streak snapped with an 8-4 loss to the Rangers on Friday.

Buffalo (19-20-6), which fired longtime coach Lindy Ruff one day after falling to the Jets in February, will not be in the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons.

"It hasn't been easy," leading scorer Thomas Vanek said. "We've stuck with it, but ultimately we weren't good enough."

Interim coach Ron Rolston became angry at his press conference following Friday's loss despite the team having played well in its previous three games.

"Of course it's disconcerting," Rolston said. "Do you think I'm not concerned about it? Of course it's disconcerting. We lost a game we should have won. We didn't have it, and there's no excuse."

Ryan Miller had another poor performance, allowing four goals on 14 shots before being pulled and was booed by the home crowd. He has a 4.24 goals-against average over his last four starts and a 3.06 GAA while losing his last four versus Winnipeg.

"He's done a lot for this franchise," Vanek said. "Fans are entitled to whatever they want. Personally, I give him a pat on the back. He's won us a lot of hockey games."

It's unclear if Miller or Jhonas Enroth will get the nod in this contest, though the Jets could start Ondrej Pavelec in net.

Pavelec is 5-0-1 with a 2.26 GAA over his last six and has a 1.00 GAA while winning his last five starts versus Buffalo.

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