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Where Buffalo Roams

Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 12:58 PM
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Ducks Off the Ice by Adam Brady
Where Buffalo Roams

This is how things looked the last time Buffalo played at Honda Center (January 19, 2010). They've since changed logos, getting rid of the Buffalo that some thought looked like a yellow slug.
You won't find too many regions in the United States with less in common than Buffalo, NY and Orange County, CA, but their hockey teams have followed a very similar path.

Both finished last year's regular season hot (the Sabres winning four straight, the Ducks winning three in a row) to jump into the playoffs, only to fall in the first round. Both had high hopes coming into this campaign, only to dig themselves pretty big holes through the first three months. And both have come on strong as of late to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Buffalo's turnaround is not quite as drastic as what the Ducks have done (but who's is?): a 17-5-4 record since January 1 that is tied for best in the NHL. That has them within six points of a playoff spot after they were once 20 back. The Sabres have points in five straight games (3-0-2) and are within seven points of the eighth spot in the East.

Both teams suffered setbacks to that hopeful climb in the standings in their last games, the Ducks losing in Colorado on Monday night and the Sabres falling in overtime to the Rangers in New York last Saturday. The Sabres, like the Ducks earlier this season, have struggled on the road, enduring a 12-game losing streak that mercifully was snapped January 24. And like Anaheim a couple weeks ago, they're currently facing a road challenge that could make or break their season: a stretch of seven games away from home in their next eight.

But despite their similarities, these are two teams that don't see each other all that much. Buffalo hasn't been here since January 19, 2010, and although the two have faced each other this season, it was under very different circumstances. That was in the opening game of the season, in Helsinki, a 4-1 loss for the Ducks that was their only defeat in the first five games.

And unlike the Ducks, Buffalo was quite active just before the trade deadline, dealing big center Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round pick to Nashville for a first-round pick and sending top prospect Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to the Vancouver Canucks for rookie  forward Cody Hodgson (who will make his Sabres debut tonight) and Alexander Sulzer.

Ryan Miller will be in net tonight for Buffalo while Jonas Hiller will make his 23rd straight start for Anaheim. (Another thing these two teams have in common: standout goalies who played great in the '10 Olympics -- Miller for the U.S. and Hiller for Switzerland.)

The Ducks did not practice yesterday after getting in late following that loss in Colorado and facing a stretch of four games in six nights starting this evening. With a win tonight, they would pull into 12th place in the West and could get as close as four points to the eighth spot, depending on what the Stars do tonight at home vs. Pittsburgh (4:30 p.m. Pacific)

Bruce Boudreau was asked by a Buffalo reporter this morning if the Ducks still believe they can make the playoffs even though, as he put it, they are still "a ways back" in the standings.

"You say that and I think you're wrong," Boudreau said. "I don't think we're far back at all. If I don't think we're far back, then I'm sure the rest of the guys don't. No matter who's in front of us, it still depends on us. If we do what we're supposed to do, eventually Colorado and Dallas and Phoenix and those teams are going to lose. They can't go 20-0.

"Until our last breath, until we're eliminated, this group is going to believe they can do it. We've come from 20 points back already, so there's no sense in stopping now. "


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 31 56 28 87
C. Perry 81 43 39 32 82
N. Bonino 77 22 27 14 49
M. Perreault 69 18 25 13 43
A. Cogliano 82 21 21 13 42
C. Fowler 70 6 30 15 36
K. Palmieri 71 14 17 9 31
D. Winnik 76 6 24 6 30
H. Lindholm 78 6 24 29 30
S. Koivu 65 11 18 3 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 20 5 0 .923 2.29
J. Hiller 29 13 7 .911 2.48

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