The Buffalo Sabres will try to get their push for a postseason spot back on track when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in tonight's battle at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres went eight straight games without a regulation loss from Feb. 17- March 3 and that 6-0-2 stretch helped get Buffalo back into the Eastern Conference playoff fight. However, the Sabres ran out of steam in the finale of a five-game road trip on Monday, dropping a 3-1 decision in Winnipeg.
Still, the Sabres' longest point streak of the season has the club in much better shape in terms of its playoff standing. Buffalo was 10 points out of a postseason berth on Feb. 18, but enters today trailing Winnipeg by just four points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Buffalo was tied with the Jets at 1-1 heading into the third period on Monday, but Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn scored in the final frame to lift Winnipeg to the victory at MTS Centre.
Corey Tropp scored the only goal of the game for the Sabres, while Ryan Miller allowed all three goals on 31 shots. Despite the setback, Buffalo still managed to post a solid 3-1-1 record on the road trip.
"We weren't skating to our full as you can tell," said Miller. "I'm so tired from this trip, I can't even talk right now. But that's the difference, you've got to be smart and you've got to be patient."
The Sabres will be home for just one contest before heading out on a two-game jaunt. Buffalo is 16-11-7 as the host this year compared to a 14-17-1 road mark.
The Hurricanes, who are eight points out of a playoff spot in the East, have been a tough out lately, as Carolina's last six games all have been decided by just one goal. The 'Canes posted a 4-3 overtime win in Washington on Tuesday to improve their record to 3-1-3 in the last seven games.
Justin Faulk scored Tuesday's overtime winner on a one-timer at 3:38 of the extra session. Brandon Sutter picked up a loose puck along the right boards and fed Faulk in the slot to set up the winning goal.
Carolina had trailed the contest 2-0 in the early stages of the second period, but came back to tie the score at 2-2 by the end of 40 minutes. The Hurricanes did cough up a 3-2 lead in the closing minutes of regulation, as Brooks Laich scored at 17:08 of the third to send the game to overtime.
Jiri Tlusty, Chad LaRose and Sutter also scored for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward made 46 saves, including three in overtime.
"You know they're going to get their shots," said Carolina coach Kirk Muller. "We just wanted to take their time and space away after their initial shots and make sure they didn't get their third and fourth rebounds.
Eric Staal picked up an assist to extend his point streak to 12 games. Carolina's captain has seven goals and 14 assists during the longest active point streak in the NHL. It's also the longest run in team history since Carolina relocated from Hartford before the 1997-98 season.
Tuesday's game was the first test on a five-game road trip for the Hurricanes, who are just 8-14-8 as the guest this year.
Tonight's test marks the final scheduled meeting between the Hurricanes and Sabres this season. Carolina has taken two of three so far in the season series, but the clubs have split the last 12 encounters overall.
The 'Canes have won two in a row, three of four and four of their last six in Buffalo.