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Sabres savior

Ryan Miller is 22-17-5 with a 2.59 GAA and .915 SP this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Ryan Miller is 22-17-5 with a 2.59 GAA and .915 SP this season. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Does anybody want to finish eighth in the Eastern Conference?

It sure doesn’t seem that way. Maybe it’s because having the New York Rangers as a first round opponent is a daunting task (just kidding, no pro team would give up that easy), but what at once seemed like a race between Florida, Washington, Winnipeg and Toronto has now opened up to include the likes of Tampa Bay and Buffalo.

Buffalo? The team that was being called on by some onlookers to trade Derek Roy and even Ryan Miller? That’s right – and it’s Miller who’s been leading the charge.

Despite sitting 25th in goals-for per-game, the Sabres have found new life lately, mostly because Miller has found his all-star caliber game again. The NHL’s first star of the week, Miller shutout both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks and took the New York Rangers into extra time. He’s also beaten Boston and Pittsburgh lately and, suddenly, the Sabres are only two points behind Winnipeg for eighth place, with a game in hand. Good goaltending can be all the difference and with Tampa Bay, Washington and even Florida struggling for consistency in that department, Miller could really prove the difference down the stretch.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
P10
THE SCOOP
1
Vancouver Canucks
1
41-17-8
6-2-2
Sloppy loss to Buffalo a down note after hard-fought 2-0 win over Blues. We'll give them a pass on that one.
2
St. Louis Blues
5
41-18-7
7-3-0
Won an impressive five of six on the road (including toppling the Sharks and Preds) in which they allowed a mere 10 goals, but loss to No. 1-ranked Canucks keeps them out of top spot. Who would you rather play right now?
3
New York Rangers
2
42-15-7
6-2-2
Big win over defending champs despite allowing three goals. Still, Henrik Lundqvist continues to make strong case for Hart Trophy.
4
Nashville Predators
4
38-20-7
6-2-2
Preds face two teams (Avs, Kings) in playoff battle and division rival (Wings) at home this week. Meanwhile, Pekka Rinne has allowed four goals in past three starts.
5
Pittsburgh Penguins
6
38-21-5
8-2-0
Penguins making strong push at right time with five consecutive wins. Haven't faced stiff test since beating Rangers Feb. 21.
6
Detroit Red Wings
3
43-20-3
6-3-1
Wings beat soft touches Columbus and Minnesota, but have lost to Canucks, Avs, Hawks in past three "challenges" at home. Really need Datsyuk and Lidstrom back.
7
Chicago Blackhawks
12
36-24-7
7-3-0
Expect Ray Emery to get majority of starts down the stretch if he continues play that got Hawks big wins on the road in Ottawa and Detroit.
8
Phoenix Coyotes
8
33-23-9
7-2-1
What started as a great week with shootout win over Canucks ended miserably with uncharacterisic 4-2 and 5-2 losses at home to Flames and lowly Blue Jackets.
9
Philadelphia Flyers
10
36-21-7
5-5-0
After tough 1-0 loss in San Jose, Flyers show they can win through offense (6-3 over Islanders) and defense (1-0 over Washington).
10
Boston Bruins
7
38-23-3
4-5-1
Disheartening 1-0 loss at home to Sens offsets win in Ottawa Feb. 28. Loss to Islanders at home humiliating and loss to Rangers at Madison Square Garden was a failed test.
11
Dallas Stars
15
35-26-5
7-1-2
Stars moved up five spots in last week's rankings due to big wins over Canucks, Hawks. This week they move up four more after tight shootout loss to Pens and big road wins in Edmonton and Calgary. If they win in Vancouver Tuesday and at home to San Jose Thursday, expect another rise.
12
Ottawa Senators
11
34-25-8
6-3-1
After huge win in Boston, Sens fall to Hawks and Panthers, though offense, not rookie Robin Lehner (2.01 GAA, .935 SP) the issue.
13
Los Angeles Kings
17
30-23-12
4-4-2
Despite tough, hard-fought loss to Preds early in the week, Kings get rolling with much-needed eight goals in next two games. Win over Anaheim enormous for playoff race.
14
New Jersey Devils
9
36-24-5
5-4-1
Devils failed to send a message with losses to Bruins, Rangers, though decisive shutout win over Caps was impressive.
15
San Jose Sharks
13
33-24-7
2-7-1
Only good thing that came out of the week for San Jose was 1-0 home win over Flyers, but 1-0 and 3-1 losses to Sabres, Blues at home got March started on the wrong foot.
16
Colorado Avalanche
16
34-29-4
6-4-0
After slow start, Semyon Varlamov coming around to help give the Avs a push. Varlamov has allowed four goals in past five starts for 4-1 record and two shutouts. Perhaps he should have started at home against Penguins (5-1 loss).
17
Buffalo Sabres
25
30-27-8
6-2-2
Easily the best week of any team in the league, Buffalo made great strides towards the No. 8 spot with shutout in Anaheim followed by two more wins on the road against San Jose and Vancouver.
18
Tampa Bay Lightning
21
31-28-6
7-3-0
Don't look now, but the Lightning are also making a push for the playoffs with four straight wins, including two OT-winners (one against the Rangers) last week. Teddy Purcell continues strong season by assisting on both extra-time markers.
19
Winnipeg Jets
18
31-27-8
5-3-2
Hot-and-cold Jets on full display last week: Embarrassing 5-3 loss at home to Edmonton followed by huge 7-0 win over Florida in what was the team's biggest game of the season so far.
20
Florida Panthers
14
31-22-12
4-5-1
Good wins over Toronto and Montreal, but the real important tests last week were against Winnipeg and Nashville, which the team failed miserably, losing both and being outscored 10-1.
21
Anaheim Ducks
19
28-28-10
5-4-1
Unexpected home loss to Buffalo on Wednesday and road loss to rival Kings on Saturday spoiled Ducks surge and cripples post-season hopes again.
22
Washington Capitals
20
32-28-5
4-6-0
It seems the Capitals are doing enough to just stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race, when they should be asserting themselves.
23
Calgary Flames
22
29-25-12
3-3-4
Lack of offense taking its toll as Flames score nine goals in four games on the week and drop back-to-back one-goal games to Western competitors Anaheim and Dallas.
24
New York Islanders
27
28-29-9
4-5-1
Have beaten Bruins and Rangers in past 11 days. Can really put dent in Devils' plans to earn home-ice advantage with two more games against them this week after beating them 1-0 Sunday.
25
Toronto Maple Leafs
23
30-28-7
2-7-1
Saturday's game againt Montreal was a must-win - and they won. Leafs haven't beat a team currently in the playoffs since Feb. 4 and have a real tough go this week against Bruins, Penguins, Flyers and Capitals.
26
Carolina Hurricanes
26
24-27-14
4-2-4
Don't call Eric Staal's season an off-year, call it a slow start. Since the first 16 games, Staal has 53 points in 49 contests.
27
Columbus Blue Jackets
30
20-38-7
4-5-1
Still the last-placed team in the NHL by a country mile, but with two road wins against Colorado and Phoenix, they're doing a good job playing spoiler. If we didn't move them out of 30th this week, we never would have. So give yourselves a pat on the back for this one, small, meaningless victory, Columbus.
28
Edmonton Oilers
29
25-33-6
4-5-1
Win over Winnipeg to start the week just showed how weak the Southeast is. Home losses to St. Louis and Dallas showed Oilers are where they belong, sitting 14th in the West.
29
Minnesota Wild
24
28-28-10
3-5-2
The Wild played four games on the week and managed only four goals - all in the same game. It's hard to believe they were ever at the top of the standings this season, no matter how early.
30
Montreal Canadiens
28
25-31-10
2-7-1
Only win since Feb. 17 was 5-4 at home over the struggling Wild - and the Habs still needed a shootout to get it.

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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