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If Sabres want to move up standings, now is the time

It’s fun to beat anyone, as the Sabres announced after dispatching Los Angeles this week. But beating L.A. is one thing. Taking care of the teams nearby is more important.

The Sabres have a chance.

Buffalo will play five games in eight days leading up to the Christmas break, and all the meetings will have an impact on the Eastern Conference standings:

*The 15th-place Sabres will host the 16th-place New York Islanders on Friday in KeyBank Center. The Sabres have 28 points, while the Isles have 27.

*The Sabres will visit 11th-place Carolina on Saturday. The Hurricanes have 30 points, two more than the Sabres, with one extra game played.

*Buffalo will visit 12th-place Florida on Tuesday. The Panthers have 30 points but have played two more games than the Sabres.

*The Hurricanes come to Buffalo next Thursday.

*The Sabres visit the Islanders on Dec. 23.

A run of victories would push the Sabres up at their competitors’ expense. A slump would be troublesome heading into the holiday.

“It’s important that we start rattling wins off,” center Jack Eichel said. “It seems like every other team’s doing it right now, so we’ve got to stay in the hunt.”

As expected, defenseman Zach Bogosian returned to practice Thursday in HarborCenter. Taylor Fedun also skated. He has missed four games with a shoulder injury.

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