While the Buffalo Sabres have shown gradual progress during their latest rebuilding effort, the Minnesota Wild have gotten the short-term boost they were seeking.
Back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, the Wild hope to stay hot under interim coach John Torchetti on Saturday in Buffalo.
After a miserable 1-11-2 stretch dropped the Wild out of the West's top eight and forced Mike Yeo's dismissal on Feb. 13, they've righted themselves with seven wins in 10 games with Torchetti in charge. The surge has pulled Minnesota (30-25-10) even with Colorado for the final wild-card spot while owning a game in hand on the Avalanche.
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The coaching change provided an immediate offensive spark, with the Wild scoring 21 goals in winning their first four under Torchetti. They've been more timely than plentiful during a three-game winning streak, extendedThursday with power-play goals by Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund in a 2-1 victory at Toronto.
Minnesota has converted 25.6 percent (10 of 39) of its man-advantage chances during Torchetti's tenure and has recorded a power-play goal in a franchise-record 11 consecutive road games, going 13 of 39 over that stretch.
"It's been a huge key for us the games we have won, especially on the road," Granlund said. "We've been able to score on the power play, and hopefully we can keep doing that. Right now, our confidence in the PP is up. I don't know if we are doing anything special."
Devan Dubnyk added 22 saves and has allowed just five goals over the streak. He may be rested in favor of Darcy Kuemper, though, with the Wild beginning a back-to-back ending Sunday against rival St. Louis.
Kuemper is 1-3-1 with a 3.21 goals-against average over his past five outings and last started Feb. 26, registering 24 saves in a 3-2 loss at Washington.
Either will be facing one of the NHL's lowest scoring teams, though Buffalo (26-31-8) produced plenty of offense to support Robin Lehner's latest solid effort in Thursday's 6-3 win over Calgary.
Though 27th in the NHL with 153 goals, the Sabres have already matched their league-low total from last season. Their 60 points in coach Dan Bylsma's first season is their most since 2011-12.
"I think we can be better," said rookie center Jack Eichel, who recorded his 18th goal in the win. "It's really good to see that we've taken a step forward. ... But I don't think we should be satisfied with that."
Evander Kane had a goal and an assist and has scored 10 times in his last 20 games after recording eight in his first 34.
Lehner owns a 1.73 GAA and .947 save percentage through his past eight starts and had a 27-save shutout in his lone previous meeting with Minnesota, while with Ottawa on Jan. 14, 2014.
Linus Ullmark made 28 saves as the Sabres halted a four-game series skid with a 3-2 win at Minnesota on Jan. 12. The Wild had outscored Buffalo 19-5 over the previous four matchups and rolled 7-0 in last season's visit to First Niagara Center.
Former Sabres captain Jason Pominville had three assists in that game and enters this one with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) over his last 10 outings.