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Sabres go for season sweep of Sharks

by Mike Battaglino

SHARKS (38-16-6) at SABRES (17-34-8)


Last 10: San Jose 6-4-0; Buffalo 4-5-1

Season series: The Buffalo Sabres defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a shootout Nov. 5. At the time, the Sabres were 2-13-1 and the Sharks were 10-1-3.

Big story: This is the final home game for the Sabres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5. Goaltender Ryan Miller will start in what could be his farewell to Buffalo fans.

"I'm trying not to be too sentimental," Miller said Thursday. "I think everyone in Buffalo kind of knows how I feel about the city. [I've] always enjoyed the people, I've always enjoyed the city. There's a deep love for the city in my heart, and I don't think right now is the time to reflect and take that time. It's still time to focus and play hockey and give all I can give. ...

"I'm just trying to enjoy this last stretch, if it is my last stretch."

Team Scope:

Sharks: San Jose showed what it's capable of with a healthy lineup in a 7-3 win at the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. Forwards Logan Couture and Raffi Torres each scored twice returning from injury.

Torres scored on his second shift in his first game since May 14, 2013, following a preseason knee injury. He played 8:26, mostly with Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown.

"That's what happens when you're a family or you're on a team, you get excited for those kind of guys," coach Todd McLellan told CSN Bay Area of Torres. "He's had 5 1/2 months of coming in and seeing the trainers, and the doctors, and the therapy. To go out and get rewarded like that was a boost not only for our team but for him.

"He had a little sparkle in his eye, and then to get the second one, I think he tired himself out a little bit celebrating. We're happy for him."

Goalie Antti Niemi, who did not see game action for Finland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, will start after Alex Stalock made 27 saves Thursday.

Sabres: In addition to Miller, forwards Matt Moulson and Steve Ott, and defenseman Henrik Tallinder have been subjects of trade speculation. Despite that, Buffalo has won two in a row coming out of the Olympic break, with wins over the playoff-contending Carolina Hurricanes and Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins.

"All these guys maybe have excuses or reasons to say, 'Hey, it's a matter of time before we leave.' No, they're not doing that," coach Ted Nolan said. "They're paying attention to what they have to do here right now."

Forward Tyler Ennis, the Sabres' second-leading scorer, will not play because of soreness. He also sat out the 5-4 overtime win against the Bruins on Wednesday.

"He's pretty close but not close enough to play tonight," coach Ted Nolan said. "He's still day-to-day, but he's a lot better."

Who's hot: Center Joe Pavelski had a hat trick Thursday and has a career-high 32 goals. Couture has a six-game point streak dating to Dec. 29. Forward Tommy Wingels has a four-game streak. … Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has four points in his past three games, including two goals in the 3-2 victory against the Hurricanes on Tuesday. Moulson has a goal and four assists in a four-game point streak.

Injury report: Sharks forward Matt Nieto (foot) played Thursday. Forward Tyler Kennedy (lower body) and defenseman Brad Stuart (upper body) did not. Forward Tomas Hertl (knee) resumed skating this week. … Sabres center Zenon Konopka (finger) will return to the lineup Friday.

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