Game Preview: Minnesota Wild @ Buffalo Sabres

I'm sure we were all in extreme jubilation over Buffalo's effort against a Dallas Stars side that we despise. Anytime you amass ten shots in each period and 40 or more throughout the whole match, is a good feeling. But it's one game and there's still work ahead for the Sabres who are looking to strengthen their postseason goals in the form of home-ice advantage by at least attaining the East's third spot.

Minnesota is in a tougher spot having dropped four straight games and their 68 points wouldn't even be enough to place them in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference as we speak. They'd be four points short but in the West, they are nine points behind the eighth-placed Calgary Flames. Desperation is always a formidable state to be in, so Buffalo can't expect an easy tussle.

Ten additional thoughts on the game:

  • Minnesota's first line of Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen has terrific wherewithal as all three individuals usually know where to find each other on the ice with crisp passing. Their nickname, two blondes and a brunette, is one of the catchiest in hockey. Now, why can't the Buffalo Sabres have a clever moniker like that for any line?
  • Both clubs are in a back-to-back situation which presents a chance for Josh Harding and Patrick Lalime to guard their respective creases. Don't forget, a win for Lalime would give him 200 in his career and he's lost his previous four cracks at achieving that milestone.
  • Tyler Myers scored 55 seconds into the game on Wednesday and notched three assists for his first four-point effort. It was a message-sending performance from the 20-year-old stating that the Calder Trophy remains his for the taking.
  • Guillaume Latendresse took a stick to the back of the neck yesterday in Detroit, causing him to leave early. If he's unable to play, it would be a huge setback for Minnesota as the former Montreal Canadien's forward has become the top scorer in just half a season since being traded.
  • No powerplay marker in seven games for Buffalo. I'll leave it at that. On the other hand, the penalty-kill is first in the league now at 86.1 per cent.
  • Cal Clutterbuck's 257 hits are setting the pace for all of the checking-inclined players. Patrick Kaleta is up to 129 albeit in just 46 games. While he averages around 2.8 hits per game, Clutterbuck is initiating contact more than 4.4 times each match. Who throws the body more tonight? 
  • Paul Gaustad could return tomorrow, in which case I'd love to see how he'd do with Raffi Torres and Kaleta playing the wing positions. Adam Mair would get bumped down to the fourth line and I assume Matt Ellis would be the healthy scratch. Just a thought.
  • It may be time to send Tim Kennedy to the AHL for a few games because he's struggled to make much of an impact. Pointless in ten games, Kennedy has an awful minus-nine rating in that span and I'd prefer Ellis to dress over him when Gaustad is cleared to play.
  • Third-string goalie Anton Khudobin is 2-0 with the Wild this season owning a marvelous 0.86 goals against average and .979 save percentage. You learn something new everyday. 
  • Derek Boogaard, who recently served a two-game suspension, wasn't in the line-up for Minnesota yesterday and with the way they were beaten, he could find himself on the bench today. I doubt he'll find any takers to drop the gloves with him. The man is 6' 8", 257 pounds. Avoid those fists at all costs.

A win would accomplish a number of things: gaining more points to maintain an advantage over the Ottawa Senators, extending a winning streak to four games, growing confidence and rewarding Lalime with a cherishing moment in his career. The door is open, but the Buffalo Sabres must walk through it.

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