Thrashers-Sabres Preview


Atlanta (30-29-12) at Buffalo (34-28-8), 7:00 p.m. EDT

The Atlanta Thrashers continue to claw their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They’ll look to extend their push for a postseason spot when they close out their season series with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

Atlanta (30-29-12) has gone 4-1-1 in six games since a 7-17-6 slide that seriously damaged its playoff hopes. The Thrashers are four points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference - a spot occupied by Buffalo (34-28-8).

“I always tell you I don’t look that far ahead, but you can’t help but not know where we are,” coach Craig Ramsay said. “Our feeling of course is we want to win, we need to win every game. So we’re going into that with that mindset, we need to win every game.”

The Thrashers and Sabres are among six teams vying for the last two spots in the East.

Buffalo (34-28-8) has gone 2-3-0 since a seven-game point streak. The Sabres have totaled four goals in those losses and fell 1-0 on Tuesday to Carolina - one of the teams pushing them for the eighth spot.

The Sabres, who had gone 3-0-1 in their last four at HSBC Arena, fell to 15-16-3 at home. They have converted one of their last 23 power-play opportunities on home ice.

“It comes down to putting your chances away,” Ryan Miller(notes) said after stopping 32 shots. “All in all, it was a good hockey game, but not the side we wanted to be on.”

Miller has posted a 1.72 goals-against average in his last seven home starts, but has a 2-4-1 record in that span.

He is 6-1-2 with one shutout and a 2.08 GAA lifetime versus Atlanta at HSBC. Miller made 40 saves in a 4-1 win over the Thrashers on Feb. 23 to improve to 2-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA against them this season.

Right wing Drew Stafford(notes), third on the team with 41 points, returned Tuesday after missing two games with an upper body injury.

Following an 0-1-5 stretch against Atlanta, Buffalo has taken four of six meetings.

Ondrej Pavelec(notes) made 35 saves against Buffalo last month. He recorded his third win in 14 starts by stopping 21 shots in a 4-3 shootout win over Philadelphia on Thursday.

“Of course, I think I should be better,” said Pavelec, 2-6-2 with a 3.97 GAA in his last 11 road games. “But we still found a way to win.”

The Thrashers blew three one-goal leads against the Flyers, the last time with 1:28 remaining in the third period. Blake Wheeler(notes) and Rob Schremp(notes) scored in the shootout to give Atlanta the victory.

“We are pumped to get the two points because it makes the two points in Buffalo on Saturday huge,” said Wheeler, who has three goals and three assists in his last six games. “Anything less than two points and it would have been a much tougher road.”

Follow Yahoo! Sports' NHL coverage on Twitter.
Updated Friday, Mar 18, 2011