PreGame Skate: Winnipeg Jets

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The Buffalo Sabres roll into Winnipeg to face the Jets at the MTS Center tonight (8PM est), with 8th place in the Eastern Conference standings on the line. With a win tonight, the Sabres can tie Winnipeg for the last spot in the conference playoff race with 70 points. The teams have previously faced each other three times this season, with the Jets holding a 2-1 advantage, while winning the last meeting 4-1 in Winnipeg.

The Sabres (30-27-8, 68 points, 3rd in NE Division, 11th in Conference): This will the the final game of the Sabres’ four-game western road swing, which has seen them win the first three games. Buffalo is coming off an impressive 5-3 victory against the Vancouver Canucks who, until yesterday’s win by New York Rangers, held the top spot in the NHL.

Buffalo has gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games, 6-2-2 in their last ten, and since the NHL All-Star break in January, the Sabres have put together a 9-5-2 record. Just over two weeks ago, the Sabres were out of the playoff race by what seemed to be a daunting ten points, but have gained 14 out of a possible 20 points to make what seemed like an impossibility quite plausible.

With two straight shutouts, before allowing three goals against the Canucks, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s “First Star of the Week“. He has a 1.40 GAA during the road trip, stopping 114 out of 117 shots he faced.

Sabres winger-turned-center-turned-winger Tyler Ennis has five points in his last four games, with one goal and four assists.

Defenseman Robyn Regehr is listed as doubtful with an injury to his hip.

The Jets (31-27-8, 70 points, 2nd in SE Division, 8th in Conference): Winnipeg is coming off a 7-0 drubbing of division rival Florida Panthers, and has a 5-3-2 record in their last ten games. The Jets are four points behind Southeast Division leader Florida, and have a tenuous grip on 8th place in the Conference, with as many as four teams within three points of the final playoff spot.

Since the NHL All-Star break, the Jets also have a 9-5-2 record, with third-year winger, Evander Kane leading the way. Kane – whose previous high in goals was 19 – already has 26 goals and 46 points, while riding an impressive eight-game points scoring streak (7 goals, 7 assists). Right winger Blake Wheeler, who leads the team in scoring (14 goals, 39 assists, 53 points), has amassed 70 points in 87 games for the Jets organization since being acquired in a trade from the Boston Bruins.

Defenseman Zack Bogosian, third in Jets’ defensemen scoring with 22 points, is out with a wrist injury.

Starting Goalies: With a share of 8th place on the line, expect to see Miller (22-17-5, 5 shutouts, 2.59 GAA, .915 Sv%) going up against his Jets counterpart, third-year starter Ondrej Pavelec (24-21-7, 4 shutouts, 2.77 GAA, .911 Sv%).

Don’t forget about the OptionIt contest. All you have to do is register for free, indicate the Sabres as your favorite team, and you are entered to win tickets to the Sabres/Maple Leafs game on April 3rd.

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