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Free Prediction: Buffalo Sabres vs Winnipeg Jets (3/5/12)

Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are playing well for the Winnipeg Jets, while the Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller is starting to regain his Vezina Trophy winning form. These teams are separated by two points in the Eastern Conference standings entering Monday night’s matchup in Winnipeg.

Kane had a career high four points in a 7-0 victory over Florida on Thursday. He is red-hot with 14 points during a career-best, eight-game streak. Wheeler has been even more productive with 15 points in the same span to push his team-best total to 53, also a career high. He had a goal and an assist Thursday.

Kane, Wheeler and the Jets (31-27-8) will face a tough assignment if Miller, the 2009-10 Vezina winner, is in net. Miller has started every game of the Sabres’ 6-0-1 surge, posting a 1.40 goals against average. He had 32 saves as Buffalo (30-27-8) won 5-3 at Vancouver on Saturday.

The Sabres have 68 points, two fewer than the Jets as the teams push for playoff spots in the tightly packed East. Miller posted back to back shutouts before Saturday.

Buffalo has killed off 17 of 19 power plays over the last seven games, holding Vancouver to 0 for 4 on Saturday. Winnipeg, though, presents a major challenge with the man advantage, ranking among the NHL’s best at 19.8 percent and converting 10 of its last 19 chances over six games.

The Jets have gone 4 for 13 on the power play in taking two of three from the Sabres this season. Wheeler and Bryan Little have a team high four points for Winnipeg in the season series.

Winnipeg is finishing up an eight-game homestand. The Jets avoided a third straight loss Thursday by pulling away with a five-goal third period, and Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves for his fourth shutout.

Buffalo seeks its first four game win streak since Nov. 4-11 after Ville Leino provided a boost with two goals Saturday, ending his 14-game drought.

Ville Leino was one of Buffalo’s prized free agent acquisitions in the offseason, signing a six-year, $27 million deal, but he’s struggled with 20 points, 33 fewer than he amassed last season with Philadelphia.

STARTING GOALIES:

Buffalo Sabres – Ryan Miller

Winnipeg Jets – Ondrej Pavelec

FREE PUCKING PICK OF THE DAY:

If the Sabres are going to make the playoffs, they will need Ryan Miller to stay red hot. He is the key to winning against the Jets tonight.

Buffalo Sabres +108 (1 UNIT)

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