ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's a big day for the Sabres from the sunny, chilly Twin Cities as they play the Minnesota Wild tonight at 6. After months of climbing back from that terrible 3-9-2 start, the Sabres can crack the top eight of the Eastern Conference with one point tonight and move ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes with a win. In fact, Buffalo could actually jump from ninth to seventh with a win tonight and a regulation loss by the Rangers in their 12:30 game against Philadelphia (that one is on NBC).
Here's a look at some items from around the NHL, starting with yesterday's big win over the Flyers:
---The Sabres were in a 2-0 hole, came back, gave up a short-handed goal and finally got over the top for a huge 5-3 win over the Flyers. Memo to Lindy: It's time to use two defensemen on the points on the power play and go a little more conservative. You're minus-10 in shorties this season.
---Today is a big homecoming for Thomas Vanek, who led the University of Minnesota to the 2003 Frozen Four title in HSBC Arena.
---The Flyers have lost three straight for just the second time all season and their lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference is down to just two points. Coach Peter Laviolette is worried they're not matching the intensity level of their opponents. Certainly true yesterday. The Sabres were clearly better over the final 40 minutes. The Bruins, meanwhile, had a seven-game winning streak snapped with an overtime loss to the Penguins. The Sabres, remember, are in Pittsburgh Tuesday and Boston on Thursday.
---I was suprised the Sabres called up Mark Mancari since they seem so thin in the middle and Paul Byron and Luke Adam were both available. Portland beat Bridgeport last night, 8-3, as the tiny Byron completed, of all things, a Gordie Howe hat trick. Without Mancari, Portland tied its season high in goals and set a season mark with five power-play tallies. The Pirates are an AHL-best 20-4-5 at home. Hey, send some of that mojo up to the big boys!
---The Rangers are hoping Marian Gaborik can play today as he's still trying to get back from a concussion.
---Remember when the Blackhawks were languishing in 10th or 11th place and it seemed the defending champs might miss the playoffs entirely? Next case. They've won eight straight after Saturday's 5-3 win in Toronto and climbed to fourth in the West. Rookie goalie Corey Crawford has unseated Marty Turco and earned every win in the steak. By the way, Patrick Kane & Co. have a big trip planned for Friday to meet another major Chicago booster: President Obama. Kane says he's bringing his camera.
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