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Why Buffalo will win the Cup

by John Kreiser
The Buffalo Sabres have yet to win a Stanley Cup since entering the NHL in 1970. It won't be easy to end that streak, but the Sabres have the biggest component -- a top-notch goaltender accustomed to playing and winning big games -- to do the job.

The Big Why:
A look at the 2010 Winter Olympics tells the story of why Buffalo can be the last team left standing come mid-June.

Ryan Miller was the reason Team USA made it to the gold-medal game -- and why the U.S. came within an eyelash of beating Canada at home in Vancouver. He unquestionably was the most valuable player in the tournament, so he's used to coming through on the biggest of stages.

Miller got off to a slow start this season, but he remains the main reason the Sabres were able to rally from a slow start and get into the playoff hunt. He's eager to atone for last spring's disappointing first-round upset loss to Boston.

The Sabres also have a pair of 30-goal scorers in Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, and can provide enough offense to give Miller the support he needs.

The Big Uh-Oh: Miller went down with an upper-body injury March 29 -- he took a shot from Toronto's Dion Phaneuf off the collarbone and didn't return until April 8. Rookie Jhonas Enroth stepped in and was terrific, winning Second Star honors in the season’s penultimate week. But unless Enroth can channel his inner Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy, going with a rookie in the playoffs isn't a good idea.

Final Argument: The Sabres started the season showing the effects of last spring's first-round playoff upset -- they went 3-9-2 in their first 14 games and were 9-13-3 at the end of November, seven points out of the final playoff spot. Since then, they've looked much more like the team that rolled up 100 points on the way to the Northeast Division title last season.

The Sabres also have gotten a shot of energy from a change in ownership. Terry Pegula officially bought the team in late February, and the Sabres have lost just four times in regulation since (16-4-4).

There also could be some help on the way. The Sabres lost No. 1 center Derek Roy in late December with a torn quad in his left leg. He wasn't supposed to be back until next season, but he's already skating and could be back as soon as the second round of the playoffs.

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