The Sabres extended their longest point streak of the season over the weekend with a victory against the top team in the Western Conference. Another win for Buffalo this evening will have them back in the postseason picture for the first time since December.
The Sabres close out a five-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets, who are trying to hold on to the eighth seed in the East in the finale of their longest homestand of the season.
Buffalo put its point streak on the line Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and knocked off the West's top seed by a 5-3 margin. Ville Leino scored twice in the first 3:44 of the game and Brad Boyes added a goal 5:10 into the opening frame to stake the Sabres to a quick lead.
Coming off consecutive shutout wins, Ryan Miller made 32 saves and had his scoreless streak end at 155 minutes and 37 seconds after finally getting bested in the second period. Still, Buffalo improved to 6-0-2 over its past eight games, good enough for the club's longest point streak since an 8-0-3 run from Dec. 26-Jan. 18 of the 2009-10 campaign.
"We knew we had a challenge tonight with the Canucks, they've been a powerhouse all year, and I thought we did a great job of jumping out to a big lead and battling pretty hard in that first period," said Miller, who is 6-0-1 in his past seven games with a 1.40 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
"It was nice to see our guys get rewarded for making some plays and putting pucks through to the net."
Tyler Ennis added a goal to give him eight points in his past nine games as well as a goal and four assists over a career-high five-game point streak.
The victory pulled the Sabres to within two points of the Jets for the eighth seed in the East, a nice turn of events for the club given that they were 10 points out of a playoff spot on Feb. 18. Buffalo hasn't been a part of the playoff picture since it was tied for the seventh spot back on Dec. 19.
The Jets hope to prevent that from happening as they look to build off a solid victory in their last trip to the ice back on Thursday. Winnipeg matched a club record for most goals in a period by scoring five times in the third frame on the way to a 7-0 rout of Florida.
The win pulled the Jets to within two points of the Panthers for the top spot in the Southeast Division, but that deficit was increased back to four with Florida's win on Sunday. Winnipeg is also just a point ahead of ninth place Washington, while Tampa Bay joins Buffalo two points off the pace for the eighth seed.
Evander Kane tallied a career-best four points in Thursday's win, scoring a pair of goals while logging two assists. The forward has seven goals and seven helpers over an eight-game point streak, while Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves to record his season high-tying fourth shutout of the season. It was also the 10th of his career.
Blake Wheeler and Kyle Wellwood added a goal and helper each for the Jets, who put the brakes on a two-game slide and improved to 4-1-2 on their homestand.
"We still have to focus on the task. We're happy, the players get in an offensive night, we don't get too many like this," Wheeler said. "We wanted to focus on playing a playoff-style game."
Bryan Little, Jim Slater and Nik Antropov also scored for the Jets, who will once again be without Zach Bogosian due to an upper-body injury. The defenseman was just returning to the lineup after missing seven in a row because of a wrist ailment.
The Jets are 2-0-1 versus the Sabres this year, splitting a pair of overtime decisions in Buffalo prior to a 4-1 home win on Jan. 19. Pavelec made 25 saves in that win, while Andrew Ladd and Antropov had a goal and an assist each.
The Sabres have lost eight of their past 10 on the road in this series with the Jets, who were formally located in Atlanta.