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  • 11/22 PREGAME: Minnesota Wild vs. Buffalo Sabres

    Heather Rule

    This pre-Thanksgiving game between the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres is a much-needed two points for the visiting Wild before they take on divisional opponents in back-to-back games this weekend.


    The Wild (9-8-3) come off a disappointing overtime loss to New Jersey at home. Their last victory came against Nashville in the big comeback effort last week to extend their winning streak to four games. They’ll match up against Buffalo (5-12-4), a struggling team also occupying their division basement.


    These teams split their two-game season series last year, but the Wild are successful against the Sabres with an 11-7-2 record overall and favorable 8-2-0 mark in Buffalo. They’ve won four straight games in Buffalo -- dating back to 2013 -- and have outscored the Sabres, 15-3.


    Goalie Devan Dubnyk is 3-2-0 with a 1.40 GAA and .948 save percentage in five starts against the Sabres. After a couple soft, own-goals given up in the last game, seeing Dubnyk return to his shutout-streak form would be welcomed. The Dubnyk era in a Wild sweater all started in Buffalo, on Jan. 15, 2015. He earned the shutout with a 7-0 Wild victory.


    Nino Niederreiter continues to hold the hot stick for the Wild. He has a career-high goal streak of four games and career-high points streak of six games (4-2—6). Mikael Granlund finally scored goals No. 2 and 3 on the season in the overtime loss this week. Maybe that’s the spark to get his scoring on the right track.


    Eric Staal leads the team with 44 points in 45 games against Buffalo. He also continues to lead the team in points overall this year with 18 (7-11—18). Defenseman Jared Spurgeon has five points in his last four games (1-4—5).


    The Sabres have a poor power play, ranked 29th in the NHL, but their penalty killing has been a perfect 26-for-26 at home. That goes up against the Wild’s 6-for-30 power play, tied for 11th in the league.


    The Buffalo roster looks a lot like the ghosts of Wild past.


    Notably, there’s Jason Pominville in his return to Buffalo with six goals and seven assists this season. He started in Buffalo, was traded to the Wild on April 3, 2013, and played 327 games for the Wild from 2013-17, scoring 206 points. Coming over in the trade, the Wild received Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, a Buffalo native. Ennis was a 2008 draft pick of the Sabres, while Foligno was taken in 2009. Chris Stewart also played for the Sabres in 66 games during the 2013-15 timeframe.


    Defenseman Marco Scandella was also dealt in the offseason trade with Pominville before the expansion draft; he has five assists. Other players who had brief cups of coffee with the Wild: Winger Matt Moulson (20 games with the Wild), Justin Falk (121 games with the Wild) and Benoit Pouliot (65 games with the Wild).


    They’re coached by South St. Paul native Phil Housley. Kyle Okposo is a St. Paul native and Jake McCabe is from Eau Claire, Wis.


    As for the Wild’s roster, they reassigned forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin to Iowa after the New Jersey loss, giving them a chance for more playing time to work on their games. Forward Zack Mitchell is back with Minnesota, plus Charlie Coyle occupies the other roster spot since his early return from a broken leg.


    The Wild host Colorado on Black Friday, then travel to the red-hot St. Louis Blues for a game the next night. So, grabbing some pre-turkey momentum against Buffalo would certainly be beneficial.


    Injury list:

    Zach Parise (microdiscectomy surgery), 20 games

    Total man games lost: 55

    Listen to Heather Every Week on the Cold Omaha Staff Pod!


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