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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres

One look at the schedule tells you that March will be the most challenging month of the season for the Buffalo Sabres.

The first reason is obvious.  After Tuesday’s win over the Rangers to start the month, Buffalo sits two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just 20 games to play, meaning the Sabres’ margin for error is slim.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
March is also Buffalo’s busiest month of the season as the team plays 16 times before the calendar flips to April, which is three more games than the next busiest month of the 2010-11 campaign.  The Sabres played 13 games in November and 12 times in October, December, January and February.  The jam-packed March features five sets of back-to-back games, also the most of any month this season.

In an added twist, the month begins with a season-high seven-game road trip, which ties the franchise record for the longest road trip.  The 12-day excursion began Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and continues in Carolina (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday), Minnesota (Sunday), Pittsburgh (Mar. 8), Boston (Mar. 10) and Toronto (Mar. 12).  There will be no rest for the road-weary, however, as Buffalo will host Ottawa at 5 p.m. the day after the final game of the trip. 

Ryan Miller will continue to be counted upon down the stretch, and the netminder has proven throughout his career he can win games in March.  Including Tuesday’s win over the Rangers, Miller has a career record of 31-16-7 in the month of March.  Although his career numbers for March (3.10 GAA, .898 SV%) are above his overall career totals (2.58 GAA, .914 SV%), his outstanding record indicates an ability to make key saves at crucial times, just as he did Tuesday in New York.

Miller also seems to be peaking at the opportune time.  Over the last seven games, he has posted a 1.86 goals against average and a .944 save percentage while allowing two or fewer goals in each outing.

Another player who could have a significant impact over the next four weeks is newcomer Brad Boyes, who scored a goal in his Sabres debut on Tuesday.  Boyes has registered 64 points (30 goals, 34 assists) in 75 career games in March.  In three of his first five full NHL seasons, March was his most productive month.

The March of the Sabres continues Thursday night at Carolina, where Buffalo will have the opportunity to climb into the top eight.

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