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Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild Preview: Two teams moving in oppostie directions

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Can the Sabres extend Minnesota's losing streak to seven games?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The two hockey teams meeting tonight are in a sort of role reversal, with the plucky, pesky Buffalo Sabres taking on the tumbling, stumbling Minnesota Wild.

Don't look now, but the Sabres are 5-3-2 in their last ten games, mostly thanks to the incredible recent play of Ryan Miller, who capped off a fantastic December with an Olympic nod. Putting aside their New Year's Eve debacle agsint Winnipeg, the Sabres have looked surprisingly competent in recent games despite missing a few regulars (Cody Hodgson, Henrik Tallinder, and I guess Ville Leino) to injury.

The Wild, however, are coming in to this game having lost six in a row, and in fifth place in the Central Division, two points behind upstart Dallas. It's a far cry from where they wanted to be, and if they can't turn things around soon, then the hyper-competitive Western Conference will swallow their playoff hopes.

Tonight also features two players going against their former teams - former captain Jason Pominville will face the Sabres once again, but Johan Larsson will also get a chance to take on his old team as he fills in for the injured Leino.

Game #41

Buffalo Sabres (11-25-4) vs. Minnesota Wild (20-17-5)

Puck Drop - 8:00pm EST - XCel Energy Center - St. Paul, MN
TV
- MSG, Bell, FS-N | Radio - WGR 550-AM
SBNation Wild Blog
- Hockey Wilderness

Three Questions

1. Now that he's officially on the Olympic squad, will Ryan Miller continue his absolutely torrid pace?
Over his last seven starts, Miller has a 1.66 GAA and a sparkling .954 save percentage, going 5-1-1 in that stretch. Think he's priming himself for a US run in Sochi?

2. Can the Sabres stay out of the penalty box?
This Ted Nolan quote from Sabres.com informs as to why that's so important: "We want to stay out of the box. They’ve been having a little bit of trouble 5-on-5, but the majority of their goals have been coming on the power play so we want to stay out of the box."

3. It's Jason Pominville bobblehead night. How will the former Sabre play against his old squad?
Bobblehheads provide extra motivation?

Projected BUF Lines

Matt Moulson - Tyler Ennis - Zemgus Girgensons
Steve Ott - Brian Flynn - Drew Stafford
Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Linus Omark
John Scott
-
Matt Ellis - Matt D'Agostini

Christian Ehrhoff Mark Pysyk
Mike WeberTyler Myers
Alex Sulzer - Jamie McBain

Goal: Ryan Miller

Scratches/Injuries: Tallinder, Porter, McCormick, Hodgson