November 12, 2014

The Minnesota Wild followed a road victory over the Western Conference's top team with a lackluster effort the next night that reminded them how much they still need to improve in order to climb in the standings.

Beating the Buffalo Sabres for the fifth straight time Tuesday night wouldn't exactly be a feather in their cap, but it would at least get them back on track at home.

Minnesota (22-12-8) sits fourth in a Central Division that's arguably the deepest in the NHL. It trails St. Louis by three points with three games in hand, but it failed to gain more ground after losing 2-1 to New Jersey on Sunday.

Zach Parise scored against his former team in the third period after the Wild totaled just seven shots through the first two periods.

"It's not good enough," Parise said. "We want to catch Chicago. We want to catch St. Louis. We can't come out and play like that."

The Wild's third defeat in their last four at home came after they beat first-place Dallas by the same score. Their 18 shots against the Devils were their second fewest of the season and they failed on their only power-play attempt.

Minnesota is 1 for 22 with the man advantage over its last 12 and hasn't scored on any of its previous 14 chances.

"We go out and beat a top team in their own building like that and then come out like that and not play a full 60," center Charlie Coyle said. "We're too good of a team to come out flat like that and not play our game. We can't afford games like that."

The Wild will try to bounce back against a Buffalo team they've swept in the last two season series. Parise and Thomas Vanek, who spent his first eight-plus seasons with the Sabres, had a goal and assist apiece in a 7-0 victory in the last meeting Jan. 15.

Buffalo (16-22-4) was outscored 21-8 during a six-game losing streak before Sunday's 4-2 win in Evander Kane's return to Winnipeg. Kane assisted on an empty net goal that gave Sam Reinhart his first NHL hat trick.

Reinhart scored 1:37 in to give the Sabres their first goal in the opening 20 minutes in six games. Their 17 first-period goals are tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in the league.

"We've talked about it. It's been a frustrating time not getting on the board early and not having success early," said Reinhart, who had one goal over his previous seven. "We've been having to kind of try and comeback late in the third. To get a couple early is great for our confidence."

The Sabres announced Monday that defenseman Mark Pysyk is back with the club following a conditioning assignment that stemmed from a lower-body injury that kept him out 22 games.

Goaltender Robin Lehner will remain with the AHL club for at least one more game during his assignment, meaning Linus Ullmark could be in net again for this contest.

The rookie made 42 saves against the Jets and has a 2.19 goals-against average over his last six.

Devan Dubnyk should be back in net after having Sunday off. Dubnyk has a 1.83 GAA over his last seven and won his only career start against the Sabres in the last meeting.

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