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The Sabres have played well down the stretch. With star goalie Ryan Miller leading the way, they easily could be this year’s eighth-seeded upstart to scare - and even beat - the powerhouses.

“The playoff race is great. It’s been great for hockey; it’s been real good for us,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “The compete level inside the games has been awesome, because there hasn’t been a team that’s been out of it. Every team is right there.”

With teams having anywhere from eight to 10 games left before the season ends on April 10, only six of 30 entered Thursday more than 10 points out of a playoff spot. There were 20 teams within five points.

In the West, 10th-place Calgary was only 10 points behind No. 2 Detroit and three points out of fifth. None of that will matter if they can’t get over the hump into the top eight.

“You look at that three through eight and that can really change the next two weeks,” said forward Dany Heatley of the third-place San Jose Sharks. “You want to have the highest seed as possible, obviously, for home ice and things like that. As far as who your matchup is going to be, it’s going to be a tough series no matter who it is.”