Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild can play spoiler role on 2-game set vs. Sabres, Capitals

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: March 24, 2012 - 11:05 AM

Morning from the arena formerly known as Marine Midland.

The Wild visits the Buffalo Sabres tonight (6 p.m. CT) and Washington Capitals tomorrow (4 p.m. CT) -- two teams fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Wild will play a big role in who gets in.

The Sabres are ninth in the East with 82 points -- tied in points with the Capitals, who are eighth. The Caps own the tiebreaker right now because they have more non-shootout wins.

"I think what's fun is it's going to be pretty darn close to playoff hockey," coach Mike Yeo said. "And those games are fun to play in. They're fun to play in if you're ready to play them. Like the start of last game, we weren't ready to play that kind of game."

Yeo was talking about the Calgary game, where the Wild took six minors in the first 20:55 before rallying from 2-0 down to win in a shootout.

Josh Harding will make his third consecutive start tonight after having won the past two. Niklas Backstrom is back in Minnesota with a minor lower-body issue, one that is apparently not an aggravation of his recent groin injury, Yeo said. Matt Hackett will be here by game-time to back up Harding and I assume start tomorrow in Washington.

Backstrom, Yeo said, will practice Monday and will hopefully be better.

With Jared Spurgeon back in Minnesota with a concussion, Kurtis Foster, scratched in five in a row and six of the past eight, will return. He'll be paired with Steve Kampfer. Tom Gilbert and Clayton Stoner will be a duo, while Marco Scandella will skate alongside Nate Prosser.

Amazing turnaround by the Sabres. On Jan. 23, the Sabres were 21 points behind Boston in the Northeast Division. They're now five. On Feb. 17, they were last in the East.

Last year, they snuck into the playoffs after going 16-4-4 in their last 24. Now, they're 17-5-5 in their past 27 and 6-0-2 in their past eight overall.

The Sabres won last night at the Garden. Coach Lindy Ruff has been hinting lately that he may rest Ryan Miller, who has started 27 of the past 29, and start Jhonas Enroth, who hasn't won since Nov. 26. If there ever was a time to do it, maybe tonight would be it because the Sabres are facing the 30th-ranked offense in the NHL.

On the other hand, is now the time to start playing games with your goaltending when if you win, you're inside the playoff bubble?

Ruff wouldn't divulge tonight's starter, saying, he'd prefer to keep the "opponent guessing."

I guess Miller. 

So who starts in goal for the Sabres

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