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Sabres need light at end of tunnel

The Sabres’ crazy run of games is nearing its end. They can’t look past the final weekend, though.

Buffalo will close a stretch of 11 games in 18 days with back-to-back home games. St. Louis will visit KeyBank Center on Saturday afternoon, and Chicago comes to town Sunday evening.

“The next two games are going to dictate a lot of the next 25 where we’re going to go, so it’s a big couple games,” right wing Kyle Okposo said Friday in HarborCenter.

Okposo wasn’t dealing in hyperbole. Buffalo has inched within three points of a playoff spot. A couple of victories would put the former cellar-dwellers squarely in the mix.

Losses, however, could make for a tough bye week. The Sabres will take a five-day break from Monday to next Friday. If the Sabres lose twice and watch other teams pile up points next week, it could convince General Manager Tim Murray to start dealing.

“For a long period of time we’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster with one up and one down, the highs of winning and the lows of tough losses,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Now we’re looking at a stretch of winning three of our last four and putting back-to-back wins together. It’s critical and important games for us as we go into the break.”

The Sabres could get defenseman Cody Franson back. He practiced with the team in HarborCenter and declared himself ready after missing four games with a foot injury.

“It was supposed to be a two- to three-week thing, and I think we made it almost seven days,” he said. “I feel good and ready to go.”

The Sabres practiced without left wing Evander Kane (illness) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (maintenance), but both will be available Saturday. Though Bylsma said Derek Grant received a positive update following Thursday’s shoulder injury, the center won’t play this weekend. Nicolas Deslauriers would take his place.


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