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Sabres notebook: Hurricanes come to Buffalo after strange week in Carolina

The last time the Carolina Hurricanes played, they were hosting the Buffalo Sabres in Raleigh's PNC Arena on Saturday.

The Hurricanes were supposed to host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. Only the ice started melting.

Poor ice conditions caused the game between the 'Canes and Red Wings to be  postponed with a make-up date yet to be announced.

The News & Observer reported that Hurricanes president Don Waddell said a broken seal on a compressor that operates the main ice chiller resulted in freon “shooting out” from the system. The loss of freon caused the temperature of the ice at PNC Arena to rise, making the ice unplayable.

Carolina coach Bill Peters said the ice was fine during the team's pre-game skate at 10:30 that morning. Crews worked to try and fix the problem, but it could not repair it before 9:30 p.m., the NHL cutoff time for starting the game since Detroit was scheduled to play the following night in Tampa Bay.

"It was pretty strange," Hurricanes forward and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak told reporters after the team practice on Wednesday. "We didn’t find out until about 10 minutes before going on the ice for warm-ups so everyone was sort of through their off-ice warm-up and starting to get dressed and we heard there was an issue and to just play it by ear. By that point got you undressed, tried to stay warm a little bit and after about half an hour it got hard to do that so you just sat around and waited. We knew it was probably going to be around nine o’clock when we knew if we were going to be playing so some of us tried to warm up as if it was going to start then and then it was cancelled. We had the day off," Tuesday "so it’s been a pretty weird couple of days."

When last the Hurricanes played, they beat the Sabres, 2-1, in a shootout. Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead in the first period before a late goal from Evander Kane tied the game, sending it to overtime. Cam Ward recorded 23 saves over 65 minutes then stopped Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel in the shootout while Stempniak and Sebastian Aho beat Sabres backup Anders Nilsson for the win.

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The matchup has early implications in the standings. In the Eastern Conference wild card standings on Wednesday morning, the Hurricanes had 33 points, one ahead of the Sabres who are tied with Detroit at 32 points. The top two teams in the conference wild card standings are Philadelphia (42 points) and Washington (41 points).

The Sabres may find more possibilities on the road to the playoffs in the division as they trail Boston by just five points for the final spot in the Atlantic Division.

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The Sabres are 5-2-3 in their last 10 games and have points in their last four games (2-0-2). They've shown resiliency, but still those first periods are troubling. In those last four games, the Sabres have left each first period trailing, 1-0, while being outshot by a combined 52-29.

"We’ve got to find a way to get ourselves into the game quicker," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "Whether it’s establishing our game, getting into it somehow. I don’t think we’re waiting around but we’re just kind of content. It’s not that we’re playing bad, but we’re just not playing assertive enough. We need to be more desperate earlier on and have that mentality from the get-go and not get behind and then make our push later on."

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Rasmus Ristolainen is not a person to shy away from ice time. If he could play, he probably would. Not that there's much more time for him to be on the ice. He ranks fifth among NHL defensemen in average time on ice with 26:41. In Tuesday's game in Florida he played 28:57.

"I think it was five games ago he was out there for a long shift and an icing and we may have called a time out and he said ‘I’m fine,'" Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He’s a guy who’ll take as much as you give him. The overtimes, he seems like he can keep going and going and going. Nothing can stop him. He gets a 30-second breather and he’s back out there again. He ends up with 28 minutes and again we can have this conversation probably over and over again about the number of minutes that you want him to play, but he handled 28 minutes just fine," Tuesday "night."

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