The Carolina Hurricanes will look to play playoff spoiler for the second straight night when they travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres. The Canes (25-27-14, 64 points, 14th in the Eastern Conference) are coming off an overtime win Tuesday in Washington, snapping a run of eight straight overtime/shootout losses and giving the team its first victory after regulation since a Dec. 29 overtime win over Toronto.
The Sabres (30-28-8, 68, 11th) had earned points in eight straight games until they lost a key game Monday in Winnipeg. Still, they remain in the playoff hunt with 68 points in 66 games but have three teams to climb over in they're going to reach the postseason.
Cam Ward, who made 46 stops in Tuesday's win over the Capitals, will be in net for both games of the back-to-back, while the Sabres will go with workhorse Ryan Miller, who was the NHL's first start last week and will make his 10th straight start.
This the final meeting between the two cross-division rivals, with Carolina winning two of the first three this season. Derek Roy has had the most success against the Hurricanes of any Sabres player over the course of his career, registering 13 goals and 29 points in 26 regular season games, including three of his eight career shorthanded tallies. Thomas Vanek is also nearly a point-per-game player against the Canes, with 24 points in 25 regular season games.
But Roy and Vanek, along with captain Jason Pominville, have struggled of late as a line with no points in their last three games and just three points total in the last six.
Eric Staal has 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 31 games against the Sabres, including a three-point night in Carolina's 4-2 win over the Sabres Jan. 6. Staal carries a 12-game point streak into the game, the longest such run of any player in the NHL this season. Defenseman Jamie McBain has also had success against Buffalo in his career, with five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games.
Carolina's lines should look like the one's that finished out last night's game in Washington, with Jerome Samson remaining on the first line after replacing Anthony Stewart during Monday's outing:
Tlusty - Staal - Samson
Skinner - Jokinen - LaRose
Dwyer - Sutter - Nodl
Joslin - Brent - Stewart
Harrison - Faulk
Allen - Gleason
McBain - Spacek
Ward - Boucher
Buffalo will likely stick with their struggling top line, though coach Lindy Ruff didn't rule out mixing things up. Here's what to expect to start:
Vanek - Roy- Pominville
Ennis - Hodgson - Stafford
Gerbe - Leino - Kalenta
Ellis - Boyes - Tropp
Leopold - Myers
Sekera - Regehr
Ehrhoff - Weber
Miller - Enroth
For a Buffalo perspective, check out our Sabres sister site, Die By The Blade.
Tonight's game will be televised locally by FS Carolinas and on the radio by 99.9 The Fan. The open game thread will be up and ready at 6:30.