Buffalo (31-25-8) at Minnesota (34-25-6)

By JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Senior Writer Sunday, Mar 6, 2011 Puck Drop: 6:00 pm EST Sun Mar 6, 2011

Both trying to move into playoff position, the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild need to start stringing some wins together.

Each club can start by winning their second straight contest Sunday as the Sabres look to continue their road success against the Wild.

Buffalo (31-25-8) is ninth in the Eastern Conference and one point behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot with 18 games remaining.

“Every game is big for us,” Sabres forward Thomas Vanek(notes) said.

Minnesota (34-25-6), meanwhile, is 11th in the West, but within arms’ reach of the final playoff spot in the bunched up conference with 17 games left.

“We go into every game like it’s a must-win,” Wild center Kyle Brodziak(notes) said.

The Wild, however, are 4-5-1 since last winning consecutive games Feb. 11-12. Minnesota looks to build on a 3-1 road win over the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes) each had a goal with an assist as the Wild bounced back after totaling three goals in consecutive losses to Chicago and the New York Islanders.

“We haven’t really played our best hockey the last couple of games and dropped down a few spots in the standings, and maybe it was a little bit of pressure,” said Brodziak, who has five goals with 13 assists his last 19 games. “We had to stop the slide for sure.”

Bouchard has three goals and four assists his last six games.

Buffalo, meanwhile, is 4-0-2 since losing three in a row.

Jason Pominville(notes), Andrej Sekera(notes) and Tyler Ennis(notes) each had a goal and an assist as the Sabres rallied from two goals down to win 5-3 at East-leading Philadelphia on Saturday. Buffalo is 2-0-1 on its season-high seven-game road trip.

“I’m playing guys that are going the best, we are trying to win hockey games, and that’s what I’m going to keep trying to do,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Ruff hopes the Sabres can keep winning at Xcel Energy Center, where they are 4-1-0 all-time and won two in a row. Buffalo has won three of its last four trips to Minnesota, all of which were decided by one goal, including 4-3 in overtime in the last visit Oct. 23, 2008.

The Wild, however, won 3-2 at Buffalo on March 12.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller(notes) did not play in that contest, but is 2-0-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average versus Minnesota.

Wild backup Jose Theodore(notes) could be back in net in place of the struggling Niklas Backstrom(notes) after he stopped 40 shots against the Rangers to win his second straight start. Theodore has a 2.00 GAA while winning three of his last four starts against the Sabres.

Backstrom, who has a 4.35 GAA during his personal three-game skid, stopped 20 shots in Buffalo’s last visit to Minnesota.

The Wild could be without forward Cal Clutterbuck(notes) after he missed practice Saturday with an upper-body injury. He has two goals and four assists his last six home games.

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