Sabres savior

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Does anybody want to finish eighth in the Eastern Conference?

It sure doesn’t seem that way. Maybe it’s because having the New York Rangers as a first round opponent is a daunting task (just kidding, no pro team would give up that easy), but what at once seemed like a race between Florida, Washington, Winnipeg and Toronto has now opened up to include the likes of Tampa Bay and Buffalo.

Buffalo? The team that was being called on by some onlookers to trade Derek Roy and even Ryan Miller? That’s right – and it’s Miller who’s been leading the charge.

Despite sitting 25th in goals-for per-game, the Sabres have found new life lately, mostly because Miller has found his all-star caliber game again. The NHL’s first star of the week, Miller shutout both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks and took the New York Rangers into extra time. He’s also beaten Boston and Pittsburgh lately and, suddenly, the Sabres are only two points behind Winnipeg for eighth place, with a game in hand. Good goaltending can be all the difference and with Tampa Bay, Washington and even Florida struggling for consistency in that department, Miller could really prove the difference down the stretch.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

P10

THE SCOOP

1

1

41-17-8

6-2-2

Sloppy loss to Buffalo a down note after hard-fought 2-0 win over Blues. We'll give them a pass on that one.

2

5

41-18-7

7-3-0

Won an impressive five of six on the road (including toppling the Sharks and Preds) in which they allowed a mere 10 goals, but loss to No. 1-ranked Canucks keeps them out of top spot. Who would you rather play right now?

3

2

42-15-7

6-2-2

Big win over defending champs despite allowing three goals. Still, Henrik Lundqvist continues to make strong case for Hart Trophy.

4

4

38-20-7

6-2-2

Preds face two teams (Avs, Kings) in playoff battle and division rival (Wings) at home this week. Meanwhile, Pekka Rinne has allowed four goals in past three starts.

5

6

38-21-5

8-2-0

Penguins making strong push at right time with five consecutive wins. Haven't faced stiff test since beating Rangers Feb. 21.

6

3

43-20-3

6-3-1

Wings beat soft touches Columbus and Minnesota, but have lost to Canucks, Avs, Hawks in past three "challenges" at home. Really need Datsyuk and Lidstrom back.

7

12

36-24-7

7-3-0

Expect Ray Emery to get majority of starts down the stretch if he continues play that got Hawks big wins on the road in Ottawa and Detroit.

8

8

33-23-9

7-2-1

What started as a great week with shootout win over Canucks ended miserably with uncharacterisic 4-2 and 5-2 losses at home to Flames and lowly Blue Jackets.

9

10

36-21-7

5-5-0

After tough 1-0 loss in San Jose, Flyers show they can win through offense (6-3 over Islanders) and defense (1-0 over Washington).

10

7

38-23-3

4-5-1

Disheartening 1-0 loss at home to Sens offsets win in Ottawa Feb. 28. Loss to Islanders at home humiliating and loss to Rangers at Madison Square Garden was a failed test.

11

15

35-26-5

7-1-2

Stars moved up five spots in last week's rankings due to big wins over Canucks, Hawks. This week they move up four more after tight shootout loss to Pens and big road wins in Edmonton and Calgary. If they win in Vancouver Tuesday and at home to San Jose Thursday, expect another rise.

12

11

34-25-8

6-3-1

After huge win in Boston, Sens fall to Hawks and Panthers, though offense, not rookie Robin Lehner (2.01 GAA, .935 SP) the issue.

13

17

30-23-12

4-4-2

Despite tough, hard-fought loss to Preds early in the week, Kings get rolling with much-needed eight goals in next two games. Win over Anaheim enormous for playoff race.

14

9

36-24-5

5-4-1

Devils failed to send a message with losses to Bruins, Rangers, though decisive shutout win over Caps was impressive.

15

13

33-24-7

2-7-1

Only good thing that came out of the week for San Jose was 1-0 home win over Flyers, but 1-0 and 3-1 losses to Sabres, Blues at home got March started on the wrong foot.

16

16

34-29-4

6-4-0

After slow start, Semyon Varlamov coming around to help give the Avs a push. Varlamov has allowed four goals in past five starts for 4-1 record and two shutouts. Perhaps he should have started at home against Penguins (5-1 loss).

17

25

30-27-8

6-2-2

Easily the best week of any team in the league, Buffalo made great strides towards the No. 8 spot with shutout in Anaheim followed by two more wins on the road against San Jose and Vancouver.

18

21

31-28-6

7-3-0

Don't look now, but the Lightning are also making a push for the playoffs with four straight wins, including two OT-winners (one against the Rangers) last week. Teddy Purcell continues strong season by assisting on both extra-time markers.

19

18

31-27-8

5-3-2

Hot-and-cold Jets on full display last week: Embarrassing 5-3 loss at home to Edmonton followed by huge 7-0 win over Florida in what was the team's biggest game of the season so far.

20

14

31-22-12

4-5-1

Good wins over Toronto and Montreal, but the real important tests last week were against Winnipeg and Nashville, which the team failed miserably, losing both and being outscored 10-1.

21

19

28-28-10

5-4-1

Unexpected home loss to Buffalo on Wednesday and road loss to rival Kings on Saturday spoiled Ducks surge and cripples post-season hopes again.

22

20

32-28-5

4-6-0

It seems the Capitals are doing enough to just stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race, when they should be asserting themselves.

23

22

29-25-12

3-3-4

Lack of offense taking its toll as Flames score nine goals in four games on the week and drop back-to-back one-goal games to Western competitors Anaheim and Dallas.

24

27

28-29-9

4-5-1

Have beaten Bruins and Rangers in past 11 days. Can really put dent in Devils' plans to earn home-ice advantage with two more games against them this week after beating them 1-0 Sunday.

25

23

30-28-7

2-7-1

Saturday's game againt Montreal was a must-win - and they won. Leafs haven't beat a team currently in the playoffs since Feb. 4 and have a real tough go this week against Bruins, Penguins, Flyers and Capitals.

26

26

24-27-14

4-2-4

Don't call Eric Staal's season an off-year, call it a slow start. Since the first 16 games, Staal has 53 points in 49 contests.

27

30

20-38-7

4-5-1

Still the last-placed team in the NHL by a country mile, but with two road wins against Colorado and Phoenix, they're doing a good job playing spoiler. If we didn't move them out of 30th this week, we never would have. So give yourselves a pat on the back for this one, small, meaningless victory, Columbus.

28

29

25-33-6

4-5-1

Win over Winnipeg to start the week just showed how weak the Southeast is. Home losses to St. Louis and Dallas showed Oilers are where they belong, sitting 14th in the West.

29

24

28-28-10

3-5-2

The Wild played four games on the week and managed only four goals - all in the same game. It's hard to believe they were ever at the top of the standings this season, no matter how early.

30

28

25-31-10

2-7-1

Only win since Feb. 17 was 5-4 at home over the struggling Wild - and the Habs still needed a shootout to get it.

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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