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Sabres try to take over 8th in East by beating Wild

by Brian Hunter
WILD (31-32-10) at SABRES (36-29-10)


Last 10:
Minnesota 3-6-1; Buffalo 6-2-2

Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the season between the Wild and the Sabres. In their most recent matchup, Buffalo won 3-2 in overtime at Minnesota on March 6, 2011, with Drew Stafford scoring 46 seconds into the extra period.

Big Story: The Sabres can take over the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference by picking up at least a point out of this game. Their 4-1 win against the Rangers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden coupled with the Capitals' overtime loss to the Jets left the teams tied at 82 points, but Washington holds the tiebreaker with six more non-shootout wins. Each team has seven games remaining, but the Caps don't play again until Sunday -- when they also host the Wild.

Team Scope:

Wild: While victories have been few and far behind for Minnesota during the second half of the season, the Wild enter Saturday seeking their first three-game winning streak since December -- back when they led the NHL standings. Thursday's win came in most impressive fashion, as the Wild battled back against a Calgary team desperate for points after spotting the Flames a two-goal lead. Dany Heatley started the rally with a power-play goal, Darroll Powe scored with 7:37 left to force overtime and Devin Setoguchi netted the shootout winner in a 3-2 triumph.

"It's nice to get a chance to redeem myself," said Setoguchi, who had an infamous fall during a shootout attempt in Montreal at the start of the month. "It's a good laugh the next day after [Montreal]. It obviously stunk at the time to fall head-first."

Sabres: Visiting an opponent fighting to retain the No. 1 seed in the East, Buffalo came out with the better effort in a 4-1 win. The first goal of Travis Turnbull's NHL career got the scoring started in the second period, and after the Rangers got the equalizer the Sabres responded with three unanswered goals. Stafford's go-ahead goal put them in front heading into the third, where he and Tyler Ennis each had insurance strikes in the final six minutes. Ryan Miller stopped 26 shots as Buffalo improved to 17-5-5 in its last 27 games.

"That's all we're worrying about -- winning our own games," Stafford said. "We've put a lot of work to get into the position we're at now, but we're not done yet. We need to take care of our end of things. We're not worried about the other teams around us. We know if we play well, take care of our own business and win the games, get the two points, we'll be sitting just fine.

"Right now, we haven't accomplished anything. We were able to get ourselves in this position, but we still need to keep going."

Who's Hot: Kyle Brodziak has two goals and four assists during a three-game points streak for the Wild and has set a career high with 40 points this season. Erik Christensen has four goals in his last five games. … Stafford has four goals and eight assists in his last six games for the Sabres. Ennis has five goals and seven assists in his last seven games. Miller is 12-1-4 in his last 17 games and hasn't lost in regulation in eight starts.

Injury Report: Minnesota lost defensemen Jared Spurgeon (concussion) and Marco Scandella (hand) during the game against Calgary. Scandella could play Saturday. Forward Matt Kassian is out of the lineup with a groin injury. Defenseman Justin Falk (leg) is sidelined indefinitely. … Buffalo forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta missed Friday's game with upper-body injuries. Forwards Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Matt Ellis (knee) are out indefinitely.

Stat Pack: The Wild are 23-16-7 this season with captain Mikko Koivu in the lineup, and 8-16-3 when he doesn't play. … Sabres rookie Marcus Foligno has five goals and four assists in eight games since he was called up.

Puck Drop: Minnesota remains a dangerous opponent, particularly with the return Thursday of Koivu, but the injuries on the blue line against Calgary forced forward Matt Cullen into taking some shifts on defense.

"I told the defensemen that it wasn't that hard," Cullen said, grinning. "By no means am I a smooth backwards skater. But what else are you going to do? We know how to play hockey, so we did what we had to do."

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