Sabres-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are playing well for the Winnipeg Jets, while the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller is starting to regain his Vezina Trophy-winning form.

These teams are separated by two points in the Eastern Conference standings entering Monday night's matchup in Winnipeg.

Kane had a career-high four points in a 7-0 victory over Florida on Thursday. He is red-hot with 14 points during a career-best, eight-game streak.

"It was great to be able to prove to everybody that we're here to play and that we have that playoff mindset going into these next 16 games," Kane said.

Wheeler has been even more productive with 15 points in the same span to push his team-best total to 53, also a career high. He had a goal and an assist Thursday.

"We don't play till Monday but you don't want to rest on your laurels here," Wheeler said. "We have a lot of tough games left."

Kane, Wheeler and the Jets (31-27-8) will face a tough assignment if Miller, the 2009-10 Vezina winner, is in net.

Miller has started every game of the Sabres' 6-0-1 surge, posting a 1.40 goals-against average. He had 32 saves as Buffalo (30-27-8) won 5-3 at Vancouver on Saturday.

The Sabres have 68 points - two fewer than the Jets as the teams push for playoff spots in the tightly packed East.

"We're battling hard to get back in the picture,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. "When you can beat a team that's basically the first-place team in the league, it's a big plus."

Miller posted back-to-back shutouts before Saturday.

Buffalo has killed off 17 of 19 power plays over the last seven games, holding Vancouver to 0 for 4 on Saturday. Winnipeg, though, presents a major challenge with the man advantage, ranking among the NHL's best at 19.8 percent and converting 10 of its last 19 chances over six games.

The Jets have gone 4 for 13 on the power play in taking two of three from the Sabres this season. Wheeler and Bryan Little have a team-high four points for Winnipeg in the season series.

Winnipeg is finishing up an eight-game homestand. The Jets avoided a third straight loss Thursday by pulling away with a five-goal third period, and Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves for his fourth shutout.

"It was good to come out, to a man, I think everybody had their 'A' game going, which is what we wanted coming in," defenseman Mark Stuart said.

Buffalo seeks its first four-game win streak since Nov. 4-11 after Ville Leino provided a boost with two goals Saturday, ending his 14-game drought.

Leino was one of Buffalo's prized free-agent acquisitions in the offseason, signing a six-year, $27 million deal, but he's struggled with 20 points - 33 fewer than he amassed last season with Philadelphia.

"It's been a tough season,'' Leino said. "It hasn't gone my way and it hasn't gone the team's way. But there's still a chance to make the playoffs and have fun here at the end. These are the games you want to play, when things count. And obviously every game counts now."

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