Buffalo Sabres’ playoff hopes look strong after win

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Cam Ward is starting to make the Carolina Hurricanes a real headache of a spoiler team, but the Buffalo Sabres narrowly escaped that challenge by eking out a 3-2 OT win tonight.

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Tough to Ward off

Ward has been a thorn in the side of Eastern Conference playoff bubble challengers in the last two nights. It’s easy to beat up on the Washington Capitals for losing another important game on Tuesday, but Ward needed to stop 46 out of 49 shots for the Canes to beat the Caps in overtime. With just 24 hours of rest, Ward nearly repeated the feat against Buffalo but his 39-for-42 output fell just a bit short.

Staying alive

With this win, the Buffalo Sabres’ playoff hopes keep kicking. Seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs drop a 3-2 regulation loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t hurt, either. Here’s your bubble update:

8. Winnipeg: 72 points, 15 games remaining

9. Washington: 70 points, 16 GR
10. Buffalo: 70 points, 15 GR
11. Tampa Bay: 68 points, 16 GR
12. Toronto: 67 points, 15 GR

Brazen Buffalo

Perhaps the most promising element is that the Sabres are the hottest team of the bunch. Buffalo is an impressive 7-1-2 in its last 10 games and is right up there with Washington and Tampa Bay in the “on paper talent” category.

Better yet, the Capitals and Jets face some scheduling stumbling blocks, the Maple Leafs remain in something of an identity crisis and the Lightning will be without their most competent goalie for perhaps the rest of the season.

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It hasn’t always been pretty, but Buffalo is in a great spot to make the playoffs with an improbable end run down the stretch. If you’re the New York Rangers, do you really want to see Ryan Miller and a varied offensive attack in the first round?