Sabres-Ducks Preview

The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks have been making strong
pushes since last month, but both teams suffered losses their last
time out.

They know they can’t afford too many more defeats if they want
to overcome their poor starts and make the playoffs.

The clubs close out their season series with the Ducks looking
to avoid a third straight loss to the Sabres on Wednesday night at
Honda Center.

Anaheim (27-26-10) has been rolling since finally getting itself
together in early January, going 17-4-4 in its last 25 games. The
Ducks, though, still have a lot of work to do to overcome their
rough start, as they’re in 13th place in the Western
Conference.

As well as they’ve been playing, defeats such as Monday’s 4-1
loss at Colorado may prove very costly. The Ducks were seeking
their third straight win but faded late against another team that
has been playing desperate hockey as it tries to earn a postseason
berth.

Anaheim was outscored 3-0 in the third period, perhaps a result
of fatigue from playing for the third time in five nights.

“It’s a grind for every team,” center Rod Pelley said. “Every
game is a playoff-atmosphere game and we’re in a position where we
can’t have a night off or be sluggish or not have energy.
Unfortunately, we can’t afford that right now.”

The Ducks, who went 6-2-2 during a stretch in which they played
all but one game on the road, didn’t make any moves at the trade
deadline, preferring to stick with the roster that’s worked them
back into contention. They’ll play their next two and three of four
at home, where they’ve gone 9-1-1 in their last 11.

Buffalo (27-27-8) has also played much better of late, going
8-3-3 in its last 14, but the Sabres also face a predicament in
having to leapfrog numerous teams to make the playoffs. They are in
12th place in the East and are also trying to hold off three clubs
that are just a few points behind them.

The Sabres have been off since Saturday, when they managed to
pick up a point but were unable to hold a third-period lead in a
3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers. Drew Stafford’s second
goal of the game 44 seconds into the third put Buffalo up 2-1, but
the Rangers answered less than 5 minutes later.

“We worked hard and we battled for a point,” Stafford said. “We
just have to keep our focus and doing our best. It’s an uphill
climb.”

The Sabres, who had won three straight, have gone 3-0-2 in their
last five.

“We could have won the game,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We need
those extra points.”

Cody Hodgson, acquired from Vancouver before the deadline Monday
for fellow rookie forward Zack Kassian, could make his Sabres debut
in this game.

Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller can tie a team record by making
his 23rd straight start Wednesday, a mark held by Jean-Sebastien
Giguere and Guy Hebert. Hiller came into Monday having posted a
1.69 goals-against average in his previous 12 games.

Buffalo beat the Ducks 4-1 on Oct. 7 at home, getting two goals
and an assist from Thomas Vanek and a goal and two assists from
Jason Pominville.

The Sabres’ Ryan Miller has allowed three goals in winning the
last two meetings between the teams.