Sabres @ Hurricanes: What it all means

Yes, tonight’s visit to RBC Center does qualify as a “big” game.

The 9th place Buffalo Sabres visit the 8th place Carolina Hurricanes tonight in the first of three remaining matchups for two teams fighting for their playoff lives.

Thomas Vanek is going to play, despite a foot injury suffered in New York on Tuesday. Ryan Miller has been Vezina-winner Ryan Miller of late. And no Rob Niedermayer tonight! What else can you ask for?

With two games in hand, and only two points behind Carolina, the Sabres can vault themselves into the 8th spot with a regulation win. Any points the Sabres can earn tonight will go a long way towards helping their postseason chances. A loss isn’t going to kill their hopes, but Buffalo can gain more by winning than they’d lose by losing.

Those two games in hand are going to be disappearing soon. Buffalo will be much more active than the teams they’re chasing over the next week. Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule:

Buffalo Sabres
9th place / 67 pts / 20 games left
Tonight at Carolina (8th)
Saturday at Philadelphia (1st)
Sunday at Minnesota
Tuesday at Pittsburgh (4th)
Thursday at Boston (2nd)

Carolina Hurricanes
8th place / 69 pts / 18 games left
Tonight vs. Buffalo (9th)
Friday at Chicago
Wednesday vs. Atlanta (11th)

New York Rangers
7th place / 70 pts / 17 games left
Tonight vs. Minnesota
Friday at Ottawa (15th)
Sunday vs. Philadelphia (1st)
Wednesday at Anaheim

Obviously, Buffalo has the tougher road. But with points tonight, and maybe from help to Minnesota, the Sabres will have a huge opportunity to vault themselves ahead of Carolina and possibly New York as well in the next 7 days.

Sure, the games in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are far from gimmes, but with Ryan Miller’s sensational play of late, there’s good chances for the Sabres to grab points in every outing. It appears Jhonas Enroth will get the start Sunday in Minnesota against the Wild, who themselves are just two points out of a playoff spot in the West.

Nothing’s going to be decided before the team plays their next home game in Buffalo next Sunday, but there’s plenty of opportunity to get themselves in better shape.

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Posted on March 3, 2011, in Sabres/NHL. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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