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Gameday Preview: Winnipeg Jets in another must-win game against the Buffalo Sabres

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The Winnipeg Jets are three points shy of a playoff spot as they take on the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek (#26 white) screens Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek (#26 white) screens Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Marianne Helm

Game Preview:

After an impressive 5-0-1 that saw the Winnipeg Jets soar up the Eastern Conference standings and back into playoff contention, the Jets take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight in what's become the nth must-win game in a row. The Jets currently sit 9th in the Eastern Conference heading into tonight's contest.

The importance of tonight's game likely cannot be overstated. A win over the Sabres would keep the Winnipeg Jets' playoff hopes alive, while a loss would all but confirm the team's upcoming tee times. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, have already been eliminated from playoff contention; they will be playing for pride for the love of the game for Darcy Regier's job to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Keys to the Game:

Winnipeg Jets

Continue scoring: The Jets', previously an offensively challenged bunch, looked like the 1980s Edmonton Oilers during their recent six game home stand, scoring at least 4 goals in all six games. The Jets' top line of Andrew Ladd (4G, 9A, 13P), Bryan Little (2G, 8A, 10P) and Blake Wheeler (3G, 8A, 11P) were particularly impressive. If the team can keep scoring at that pace (or anywhere it), it'll go a long way towards putting themselves in a position to win.

Special teams: Make no mistake, the smorgasbord of recent goals is not indicative how this team's scoring prowess. Neither the Jets nor Sabres is an offensive juggernaut, so this game could come down to whichever team manages to squeeze a little production out of their awful power play. The Sabres' power play ranks 29th in the NHL, with just a 13.8% conversion rate. The Jets, meanwhile, own an ever-so-slightly better 13.9% conversion rate.

Ondrej Pavelec: As with most teams, the Winnipeg Jets live and die by the play of their goaltender(s). When Ondrej Pavelec is on his game, this is a playoff-caliber team. When Pavelec struggles though, the Jets tend to get laughed out of the building.

Buffalo Sabres

No quit!: The Sabres, mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, don't have a lot to play for at this point. With more losses and a higher draft choice more beneficial in the long-run, will the Sabres be motivated to win tonight's game?

Silver medal: What better way to get revenge on a jeering crowd than to thwart the Jets in a game they absolutely need? Ryan Miller has that opportunity tonight.

Job Auditions: Wholesale changes are likely coming this team's way. In a matter of weeks, the Sabres traded Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, and their former captain, Jason Pominville. Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl about the availability of stars Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. Who else might be suiting up in a new uniform next season? From here on out, many of the Sabres are likely playing for their jobs in Buffalo.

Player to boo mercilessly:

John Scott, because players of his ilk shouldn't even be in the NHL.

Prediction:

Winnipeg 2

Buffalo 3 - F