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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)20:00 ETNaN:� BRT, January 4, 2018
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota  Attendance: 19,017

Housley returns to home state as Sabres visit Wild

Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild

  1. The Sabres lost, 3-2, in overtime to the Rangers in the Winter Classic on January 1 at Citi Field. It was Buffalo's first outdoor game since the 2008 Winter Classic when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins at then-Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.
  2. The Wild beat the Panthers, 5-1, at home on Tuesday night to pick up their third win in the last four games. Against the Panthers, Zach Parise played in his first game of the season coming off back surgery, and fired three shots on goal in 13:35 of action.
  3. The Wild beat the Sabres, 5-4, on November 22 in these clubs' first meeting of the season. Overall, Minnesota has won three of four games against the Sabres, but have dropped two straight at home. Each of the last two games in Minnesota between these teams has been decided by one goal.
  4. Jack Eichel's four-game point streak was snapped in the Sabres' Winter Classic loss to the Rangers. Eichel has seven goals in his last seven games -- tied with Rickard Rakell for most in the NHL since December 15.
  5. Eric Staal scored twice against the Panthers Tuesday night, recording his fourth multi-goal performance since November 30 -- most of any skater in hockey. His 17 goals and 35 points are tops for players currently age 33 and older this season.
  6. Since the 2014-15 season, the Wild are seventh in the NHL in scoring, averaging 2.85 goals per game. The Sabres rank last in the league over that stretch at 2.24 goals per game.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Due to the World Junior Hockey Championship being played in their arena, the Buffalo Sabres have not had a true home game since Dec. 22 and won't again play in front of their home fans until Tuesday.

But Sabres coach Phil Housley will at least get a taste of home on Thursday when his team visits Minnesota to face the Wild.

Housley's family still lives in the Twin Cities suburbs, where his wife Karin is a Republican state senator and has recently announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

As for the campaign that Phil Housley is running in Buffalo, the team is still solidly in last place in the Eastern Conference, but the first-year Sabres coach is seeing some signs of hope.

After their overtime loss to the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, the Sabres have collected at least a point in four of their last five games.

"A lot easier, believe me. Early on in the season there were a lot of struggles and a lot of games we were in were one-goal games or we were even. We were just cracking at the wrong time, making a critical mistake at the wrong time, and they were tough," Housley said.

"It was tough on our hockey club and our coaches because we kept trying to grind it out and trying to find different areas where we could improve. We're playing a better brand of hockey now. You can see the confidence growing in our guys. ... There are times when we bend but we don't break, which is a credit to our team."

Buffalo's players have noticed a new, better feeling, both on the ice and in the locker room.

"We're definitely making strides and playing more consistently the way we want to play, which is usually a good sign," said forward Jason Pominville, who will be returning to Minnesota after the Wild traded him to Buffalo over the summer.

The Wild opened 2018 with a decisive 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, getting two goals each from Matt Cullen and Eric Staal. They were boosted by the return of Zach Parise to their lineup after the star left winger had missed the first half of the season due to back surgery.

"I felt really good from the start," said Parise, who had three shots and skated more than 13 minutes versus the Panthers. "Kind of re-learning different spots on the ice where you get pressured. But that'll come. Conditioning-wise, everything else actually felt really good."

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau sounded confident after the Florida game that they may inch closer to full health soon with the return of forward Nino Niederreiter, who has missed five games with a lower-body injury.

Niederreiter was a full participant in the Wild's practice on Wednesday and Boudreau expects him in the lineup versus Buffalo.

Updated January 4, 2018

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