Sabres at Hurricanes: Five Things to Know - The Buffalo News

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Sabres at Hurricanes: Five Things to Know

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After the disappointment of Thursday's 4-2 loss in Tampa, the Sabres have crept a little to the north in search of a win on this quick road trip as they will play the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at 7:30 in PNC Arena. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call on MSG. The Sabres are 0-1-1 against the Canes this season, dropping a 2-1 shootout decision here on Dec. 17.

Here are Five Things to Know about the teams' final meeting of the season:

1. It's the start of the second half for both teams: The Sabres finished the first half of their season at 16-16-9 for 42 points while the Hurricanes are 19-15-7 for 45 points. Last year, the Sabres were just 15-22-4 for 34 points but improved in the second half by going 20-14-7 to finish with 81. Coach Dan Bylsma said late this afternoon he's hoping this team can put on a similar push.

"We just need to learn to get consistency in our game, in how we play and our emotions," Bylsma  said. "We've ridden some highs of winning games and the lows of disappointment not winning key games. We feel that (potential for a second-half push). We feel that coming from the last 17 games or so. That's what we have to keep focusing on: Getting consistency in our game. Keep driving. Keep racking up points, getting wins and doing it at a playoff-type pace."

2. In the Buffalo net: It's three starts in a row and five of the last six for Anders Nilsson (7-4-4, 2.41/.928). He stopped 25 of 28 shots in Tampa and had a sound game, other than kicking out a big rebound for the Lightning's third goal. "In the third period when we made it 3-2, he made three real big saves on their penalty kill and gave us a chance to still be in that game," Bylsma said.

3. In the Carolina net: The Canes will start veteran Cam Ward for the 36th time this season and the 18th game in a row. He's 16-12-6, 2.31/.915 and will be playing in his 600th regular season game tonight. Ward has 285 wins as he closes in on 300. His career numbers against Buffalo are pedestrian (13-10-5, 2.73/.905), but he'll always have that 2006 Eastern Conference final series on his resume.

4. Southern home cookin': The Canes are money here with a 13-4-1 record this season and a 12-1-1 mark in their last 14 at home. And that's even though the place is empty most nights. The average tickets-sold count is just 11,449 -- nearly 1,400 behind every other team in the league -- and in-house crowds are reportedly running far less than that.

"I don't know what kind of night we're going to have on a Friday the 13th but last time we had our own fair share of fans here in the building," Bylsma noted. "It was a little bit of a back and forth between the fans when we came back to tie it late in the game and played overtime."

5. Sabre Points -- Zach Bogosian plays in his 500th NHL game tonight. ... Zemgus Girgensons has two goals and two assists in the five games since Johan Larsson suffered his season-ending arm injury. ... Buffalo is 2-2-2 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 2-2-1 in the second game.

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