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At the Rink: Sabres at Wild

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild play their 43rd game of the regular season against the Buffalo Sabres at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; MSG-B, BELL TV, FS-N+). In an odd scheduling quirk, it's the third time in the past three seasons the Wild have played the Sabres in game No. 43.

Minnesota (22-12-8) has used wins against Buffalo (16-22-4) in each of the past two seasons to get back on track.

Two years ago, the Wild were 20-17-5 but had lost six-straight games coming into No. 43. A 4-1 win against the Sabres sparked a four-game winning streak and Minnesota finished 23-10-7 the rest of the way to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Last year, the Wild were 18-19-5 after 42 games and were buried in seventh place in the Central Division and 13th in the Western Conference. An 0-5-1 stretch coming into the game convinced general manager Chuck Fletcher to deal a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, working on little sleep after a long flight from Arizona, made 18 saves in the 7-0 win at the First Niagara Center. Minnesota was one of the best teams in the League the rest of the season, finishing 28-9-3 over the final three months.

This year, the Wild are in a much different spot. With 52 points, Minnesota has more points through 42 games than any season in franchise history.

"The feelings we had last year going into this game compared to where we are now, it's totally different," forward Zach Parise said. "We're just in a different spot as a team."

Despite the success and ability so far to avoid longer losing streaks, Parise said there is another level or two the Wild must get to more consistently.

That's been especially true at home, where Minnesota started the season 8-1-0 but is 6-5-2 over its past 13 games. The Wild have lost their past two on home ice: 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 7 and 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

"Even though we are where we are right now, I think there is a feeling that we know we can and we know we should be playing so much better," Parise said. "I don't know if we're in a rut, but even when we are winning games, there's just not that satisfying feeling of, 'That was a great win.'"

Buffalo closes out a three-game road trip against teams in the Central Division. A win would give the Sabres a winning trip following a 4-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Sunday.

The Sabres recalled defenseman Mark Pysyk from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Monday, but coach Dan Bylsma has decided to go with the same lineup as against the Jets.

Pysyk, who has one assist in 18 games with the Sabres this season, is likely to be in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 17 when Buffalo opens a two-game homestand against the Boston Bruins on Friday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Jamie McGinn

Zemgus Girgensons - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - Tim Schaller - David Legwand

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Mike Weber - Cody Franson

Linus Ullmark

Chad Johnson

Injured: Cody McCormick (blood clot), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Nicolas Deslauriers (lower body), Robin Lehner (high ankle sprain)

Scratched: Mark Pysyk, Carlo Colaiacovo


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter - Jarret Stoll - Erik Haula

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Jonas Brodin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Ryan Carter (hand), Nate Prosser (hand)

Scratched: Niklas Backstrom

Status update: McCabe, who sustained a lower-body injury in the third period against Winnipeg and did not return, will play. ... Carter, who was already dealing with a hand injury, injured his other one in a fight Sunday. Wild coach Mike Yeo said Carter could be out through the weekend.

Who's hot: Reinhart scored his first NHL hat trick against the Jets, becoming the first Sabres rookie since Jason Pominville in 2006 to score three goals in a game. ... Parise has five goals in his past four games and leads Minnesota with 16 this season.

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