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Playoff Pulse: Sabres move within two of Jets

by Brian Compton
The Buffalo Sabres are not giving up.

Despite trading away gritty players such as Paul Gaustad and Zack Kassian at the trade deadline, the Sabres now find themselves just two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after a 3-2 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday night.

Jason Pominville tallied the game-winner 56 seconds into the extra session, when he beat Cam Ward during a man advantage. With the victory, the Sabres improved to 7-1-2 over their last 10 games.

"It's nice to have a chance at it," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who stopped 22 shots. "We just have to be excited for this opportunity. There's a lot of hockey left to be played."

With 12 games on the schedule Thursday, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Wednesday's action:


Division leaders:

New York Rangers (91 points) were off. They continue a three-game trip Thursday night in Ottawa.

Boston (81 points) did not play, but it welcomed Marty Turco into the mix after the veteran goaltender cleared waivers Wednesday. The Bruins host Buffalo on Thursday at TD Garden.

Florida (74 points) had another day off, but finally returns to action Thursday night at Philadelphia.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (85 points after Wednesday's 3-2 win against Toronto) pulled within six points of the Rangers as it edged Toronto at the Consol Energy Center. Winners of seven straight, the Pens host Florida on Friday night.

Philadelphia (81 points) was idle Wednesday. The Flyers host the Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

New Jersey (79 points) did not play. The Devils begin a home-and-home series against the Islanders in Newark on Thursday.

Ottawa (78 points) was idle Wednesday. The Sens face the Rangers at Scotiabank Place on Thursday night.

Winnipeg (72 points) had the second of two off-days before beginning a two-game trip in Vancouver on Thursday.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (70 points) did not play Wednesday. The Caps return to action on Thursday night against Tampa Bay at the Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET, NHL Network in the U.S.).

Buffalo (70 points after Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win against Carolina) moved within two points of the Jets when Jason Pominville scored via the power play less than a minute into overtime at the First Niagara Center. The Sabres get right back at it Thursday night, when they'll visit Boston.
Tampa Bay (68 points) was idle Wednesday, but learned it will be without goaltender Mathieu Garon with a groin injury. Dwayne Roloson and the Bolts are in Washington on Thursday.

Toronto (67 points after Wednesday's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh) failed to protect a 2-0 lead and came away with zero points in a disappointing loss to the Pens. The Leafs are now off until Saturday, when they'll host Philadelphia.


Division leaders:

St. Louis (91 points) remains in first place as every team in the Western Conference was idle Wednesday night. The Blues will host Anaheim at the Scottrade Center on Thursday.

Vancouver (90 points) hopes to avoid a third straight regulation defeat on Thursday night against Winnipeg at Rogers Arena.

Dallas (77 points) returns home to host San Jose on Thursday night after completing a sweep of its three-game swing through Western Canada at Vancouver on Tuesday.
The next five:

Detroit (89 points) continues its pursuit of a Central Division crown on Friday night against Los Angeles at Joe Louis Arena.

Nashville (83 points) returns to action Thursday night against Colorado at Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago (79 points) will be off again Thursday, but hosts the Rangers at the United Center on Friday night.

Phoenix (75 points), which is still seeking its first win in March, returns to Arena on Thursday to host struggling Minnesota.

San Jose (74 points) hits the road to face Dallas on Thursday night after going 1-2-1 on a four-game homestand.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (74 points) continues its stretch of four games in six nights at Columbus on Thursday night.

Colorado (74 points) returns to action at Nashville on Thursday night. The Avs will be without Matt Duchene, who will miss at least one contest due to an ankle injury.

Calgary (72 points) is off again Thursday. The Flames host Winnipeg on Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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