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Sharpen Up: January 11, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Another game, another big win for the Buffalo Sabres. This time, they downed the Philadelphia Flyers last night at KeyBank Center in a 4-1 victory. The Sabres have won three of their last four games and have points in each of them. 

The only blemish? That overtime loss in Chicago. But they've clearly been able to move on from that one with back-to-back wins. 

Buffalo now sits at 41 points through 40 games, seven points behind Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot (with three games in hand) and five points behind Ottawa for third in the Atlantic Division (with one more game played).

Here's what you need to know. 

Video: Three-goal 2nd lifts Sabres past Flyers, 4-1

The last time Buffalo played the Flyers, they gave up a 3-0 lead on the road in the third period and ended up losing 4-3 in the shootout. That wasn't the case last night.

"I think our team game has been improving a lot since the last time we played them," Anders Nilsson, who made 39 saves, said. "You can't take anything for granted. We knew we had a three-goal lead going into the third, we talked about it in the second intermission and said we can't get back on our heels, just need to push for the next goal and get the puck deep. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that."

The game recap has more where that came from. 

Video: Nilsson on the postgame show

Nilsson improved his record at home this season to 5-1-1 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average. He improved to 7-3-4 on the season with the win, and now ranks fifth in the NHL with a .930 save percentage.

Robin Lehner missed the game due to an illness and Linus Ullmark was recalled to serve as the backup.

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview vs. PHI

"I think you've got to keep pushing to be better and be better at what you do," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We did some good things tonight, there's no question about that. There were a lot of good things in the way we want to play and you saw that in the second period.

"… We got a win tonight. We're not going to stop trying to get better in how we play and how we want to play. You enjoy the win, you enjoy getting the two points, and then you've got to move on to a big game against Tampa Bay."

 

Reinhart's rolling

Sam Reinhart had a big night with a goal and two assists. He now has 12 points (3+9) in his last 10 games, including points in four straight home games (1+5).

Video: Reinhart: Postgame Interview vs. PHI

"It's easy to get frustrated when things aren't going your way," he said. "But when the chances are there, you know things are going to turn eventually. I think even tonight, I could've had a couple more that Jack [Eichel] kind of gave to me and set me up nicely. I think if he keeps finding me I'll be able to put more of them in."

With three points tonight (1+2), Sam Reinhart tied the career-best mark he set a year ago last night with a hat trick at Winnipeg on Jan. 10, 2016. You might remember it:

Video: Reinhart's hat trick leads Sabres over Jets

He's not the only Sabre on a hot streak. 

Ryan O'Reilly tallied two assists and now has two points in each of his last three games since returning from an appendectomy. O'Reilly has eight points (2+6) in his last seven home games and seven points (1+6) in his last six games overall.

Evander Kane scored, too. That gives him sole possession of the team lead with nine even-strength goals in 29 games this season.

William Carrier returned to the lineup and potted his second goal of the season. He had missed the last two games due to an illness that caused him to lose 13 pounds, according to Bylsma. He was certainly a factor last night, registering two shots and four hits in 11:25 of ice time.

Video: Carrier: Postgame Interview vs. PHI

And with an empty net goal, Marcus Foligno now has a point in four straight home games (3+1).


Okposo's a star

An All-Star that is. He'll be Buffalo's representative at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game later this month in Los Angeles. We caught up with Okposo after he received the good news. Needless to say, he's excited about the opportunity.

"It's something I've always wanted to be a part of," he said. "You throw it on the TV when you're growing up or even now and the All-Star Game is a pretty cool event. I'm thrilled to be participating this year and I'm very honored to be selected."

You can read more and check out the full rosters here.

 

On tap today

The Sabres are scheduled to be back on the ice for practice today. Then they'll head out for a two-game road trip that will see them take on Tampa tomorrow and Carolina on Friday.

Buffalo is currently one point back of the Lightning with two games in hand and four behind Carolina with one game in hand. 

So these games (as well most of them from here on out) will have a big impact on the playoff race. 

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