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Sabres return home to face Hurricanes

by Davis Harper
HURRICANES (25-27-14) at SABRES (30-28-8)


Last 10: Carolina 5-2-3; Buffalo 6-2-2

Season Series: This is  the fourth and final meeting of the season. Carolina holds a 2-1 edge by way of their 4-2 win at the RBC Center on Jan. 6. The 'Canes also won the other meeting at First Niagara Center, a 4-3 affair during the first week of the season.

Big Story: Carolina and Buffalo are separated by just two places and four points in the Eastern Conference standings after the former's overtime win against Washington on Tuesday night. The Sabres have used a late-season surge to pull within four points of eighth-place Winnipeg. However, Buffalo's eight-game point streak came to an end Monday against those same Jets.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: After losing two straight at the RBC Center, Carolina entered the nation's capital on Tuesday with the worst away record in the NHL (7-14-8). The 'Canes were facing a Washington team desperate to re-enter the playoff race. Against all odds, Carolina took advantage of two odd-man rushes, an all-too-easy breakaway and a fortuitous bounce to bury the Caps, 4-3 in overtime. The 'Canes went down 2-0 early in the game, but took advantage of Washington’s mental mistakes to score three times – starting with a Jiri Tlusty finish at 4:51 of the second – in 15 minutes to take the lead.
"When you get down by two like that and make it a one-goal game again, it's huge, especially on the road," Sutter said. "It was a big momentum boost, and we managed to play pretty well from that point forward."

Sabres: If it wasn't already a known fact, Buffalo brought their reliance on goaltender Ryan Miller into stark reality over the past two weeks. The Sabres ace was in net for each of Buffalo’s games over their 6-0-2 stretch from Feb. 17-March 3, shutting opponents out twice and giving up just 13 goals. On Monday in Winnipeg, Buffalo again turned to Miller in the fourth and final game of Buffalo's recent road trip.

Once again, he was good – stopping 26 of 29 shots for a .903 save percentage – just not good enough, as Winnipeg broke a 1-1 tie in the third period as goals from Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn proved the difference.

"It was a hard-fought game," said Miller. "Both teams understood the position they're in. Unfortunately, we broke in the third period."

Who's Hot: Carolina captain Eric Staal had the secondary assist of Tlusty's goal, running his point streak to 12 games. He has seven goals and 14 assists in that span.

Injury Report: Drayson Bowman missed Tuesday's game with a sinus infection. Tuomo Ruutu is going to miss three weeks with an upper-body injury. … Buffalo's Cody McCormick is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, while Jochen Hecht is on injured reserve with a concussion.

Stat Pack: As good as Miller has been – and he has been very good, with a 1.67 goals-against average over Buffalo's last nine games – Carolina’s Cam Ward has enjoyed a measure of success against the Sabres. Ward is 4-1-1 over his last six meetings with Buffalo, including wins in both starts this season. He kept the 'Canes in the game Tuesday night, making 46 saves.

Puck Drop: Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said he was disappointed in Monday’s result, highlighting the importance of getting points from every game.

"We knew that they would probably be a fresher team," Ruff said. "It's disappointing to have it 1-1 after almost 50 minutes and make the mistake that we made. We could have been in a lot better position if we at least got a point tonight, and that is the part that stings.

"I didn't talk about the road trip," Ruff replied when asked about his post-game message to his club. "I talked about how we let a point slip away. We don't have that luxury."
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