The surging Buffalo Sabres will try to take hold of the Eastern Conference's eighth seed when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres enter today's action tied with idle Washington for the East's eighth and final postseason berth. Buffalo was one point behind the Capitals heading into Friday, but the Sabres drew even thanks to last night's win against the New York Rangers and an overtime loss by Washington against Winnipeg.
After tonight's game, Buffalo's next tilt will be Tuesday's showdown with the Capitals in D.C.
Buffalo posted a 4-1 win against the Rangers on Friday at Madison Square Garden. Drew Stafford had two goals and an assist to help the Sabres win their third straight game and improve to 5-0-2 over their last seven trips to the ice.
"We're not worried about the other teams around us," Stafford said after the important win. "We know if we play well, take care of our business and win the games, we'll be sitting just fine."
Tyler Ennis added a goal and two assists for the Sabres, while Travis Turnbull recorded his first NHL goal in his second career game.
Ryan Miller made 26 saves for Buffalo, improving to 6-0-2 over his last eight starts.
Buffalo forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta missed the game with upper- body injuries and are questionable for tonight.
The Sabres are 19-11-8 as the host this season and have gone 6-0-1 over their last seven tests in western New York.
The Wild will aim for their first three-game winning streak in over three months when they take the ice tonight. Since a season-high, seven-game winning streak ended on Dec. 13, Minnesota has posted consecutive victories on just three occasions and the latest instance came with back-to-back wins over Vancouver and Calgary.
Minnesota, which has been all but mathematically eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race, posted a 2-0 win over the Canucks on Monday and then completed a five-game homestand with Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames.
Devin Setoguchi scored in the fourth round of the shootout to lift the Wild to their recent win over the playoff-hopeful Flames, who blew a two-goal lead in Thursday's contest.
The Wild scored two unanswered goals in regulation after falling behind 2-0, tying the game when Darroll Powe knocked the puck just over the goal line with 7:37 remaining in the third period.
Josh Harding made three saves in the shootout -- the other shot was wide -- and Setoguchi scored with a snap shot into the top left corner of the net to beat Miikka Kiprusoff. Harding then denied Blake Comeau at the other end to seal the victory for the Wild.
Dany Heatley had a power-play goal for the Wild, who went 2-3 on their five- game homestand, and Harding made 27 saves.
Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu returned from a 15-game absence due to a shoulder injury and played 22 minutes. Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was also back in uniform on Thursday after not being available for the previous seven games with a groin injury.
Backstrom, who is 17-17-6 this season, could get his first since March 1 this evening.
Jared Spurgeon will miss tonight's test after suffering a concussion against Calgary and fellow Wild forward Matt Kassian is expected to sit out a second straight game with a strained groin.
Minnesota, which will visit Washington on Sunday to complete a brief two-game trip, is just 14-17-6 as the road club this season.
Tonight's test marks the only meeting this season between Buffalo and the Wild. The Sabres posted a 3-2 overtime win last year in Minnesota, giving them two wins in the last three encounters in this series.
The Wild have won four straight in Buffalo and the only road loss in this series for Minnesota came back on Nov. 17, 2000.