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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres

For the second straight game, the Sabres will host an opponent they lead by four points in the standings.  Like Carolina on Tuesday, the Atlanta Thrashers enter tonight’s game in Buffalo with 72 points to the Sabres’ 76.  Buffalo currently occupies the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but is now tied in points with the Hurricanes. 

Following today’s morning skate, Lindy Ruff talked about the importance of tonight’s matchup with the Trashers.

“I’m not going to hide from the fact that this game means a lot to us.  This is a big game for us.  After losing a real tough one where it could have been a game we could have had, we didn’t get it, now our answer has to be an even bigger effort and better finish,” Ruff said.

Entering play tonight, the Sabres lead a group of teams (Carolina, Atlanta, Toronto, New Jersey) that are separated by six points in the standings and have either one or two games in-hand on all of them.

“We’re in great position. We just have to win games,” said Ruff.  “We don’t have to look over our shoulder, we just have to put the work in – the emphasis being ‘work.’  If we put the work in and create the opportunities, our key guys are going to have to finish, are going to have to take advantage of those situations, but it starts with getting the work done.

“We’re in a best-of-12 right now, where you go 7-5, or if you really want to be in good shape, you go 8-4.  But these are the situations you want to see how your players react.  You want to see if they can handle that one great opportunity to make a difference in the game.”

Nathan Gerbe, who appeared in two postseason games for the Sabres last season, talked about the excitement of the playoff race.

“This is by far the best time of the year. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, if it’s the American League, college… playoff time is fun. That’s when it matters, that’s when it counts, and that’s when everyone steps up their game.”

Despite firing 40 shots at Cam Ward on Tuesday, the Sabres were shutout for the fifth time this season.  Brad Boyes talked about what the Sabres need to do to put pucks in the net.

“The biggest thing that Lindy talked about is getting more traffic at the net, we worked on that a little bit the other day in practice, and I think that’s key, that’s important.  Getting more traffic, getting a couple ugly goals, things like that, because now we need any type of goal, any way it goes in,” Boyes said.

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