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NHL on NBCSN: Stars begin season-defining stretch vs. Sabres

Mar 3, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

Tyler Ennis AP

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Dallas Stars host the Buffalo Sabres at American Airlines Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

With just 22 games left, the Stars are at the center of the battle for one of the final postseason positions.

Dallas holds the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but only by the slimmest of margins. Had the Vancouver Canucks or Phoenix Coyotes won yesterday, the Stars would be on the outside looking in again, but they caught a break and now Dallas needs to capitalize on it.

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The Sabres might be out of the running and their franchise player, Ryan Miller, has been traded to St. Louis, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be an easy opponent. Buffalo’s goaltenders have a lot to prove right now as Jhonas Enroth fights to show he’s ready to be a starter and Jaroslav Halak fights for his next contract as he faces the possibility that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Halak isn’t unique in that regard. The Sabres have 11 players with contracts that are set to expire and thus have plenty of motivation to play for at least themselves if not for the team.

“(The Sabres) are a team that hasn’t lost a game since the break,” Stars forward Vernon Fiddler pointed out, per the Stars’ website. “They are playing carefree. They have a lot of young guys with a lot to prove. They have great coaching. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

All the same, this is the type of game that Dallas has to win because getting points is only going to get harder from here. After this contest, the Stars will play five straight games against teams that have either currently possess a playoff spot or are in serious contention for one. Dallas is also starting a stretch of 15 games over 27 days, so these contests will only get harder as fatigue starts to set in.

The Stars make-or-break stretch is starting now and this game could set the tone.

  1. dropthepuckeh - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    Any reason why NBC continues to showcase Buffalo, the last place team in the NHL? There has to be a more compelling game than this…

    • einjzmolf - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Well, the article states that the Stars are fighting for a playoff spot
      So, in another light, NBC is covering the Stars, a relevant team. And a fan of hockey does not complain about who they watch, getting the chance to watch anyone is great. NBC has done a wonderful job covering the NHL lately, and it helps the sport. You aren’t being forced to watch, you know.

      • dropthepuckeh - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        Gee thanks for the lesson in hockey fandom and I appreciate you letting me know I don’t have to watch the game. I agree that having a game to watch is better than nothing and that NBC has done a great job but showing Buffalo 11 times in a season seems a little much and I’m not sure it helps the sport as you say.

        ” And a fan of hockey does not complain about who they watch, getting the chance to watch anyone is great.”

        That is hilarious….

      • einjzmolf - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        Not sure how that’s hilarious. It’s nice to see other teams, semi scout them, and get to see talented players I otherwise may not see. We just have different views on getting to watch as many games as possible, and that’s fine.

    • marlen656 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      I look at it another way…I’m a Sabres fan and hate that NBC is choosing this season to feature the Sabres. Nationally telecasted games would have been appreciated in the late 90’s or mid-2000’s. Watching the Sabres play this year has been painful. I can truly say this is the worst brand of hockey I’ve seen in Buffalo in over 40 years.

      The answer to your question though is Ratings. Buffalo, despite it’s small market size consistently provides the highest ratings for these broadcasts. NBC/NHL negotiates with each team for exclusivity to broadcast a certain number of games (for Buffalo that number may be 15 games – not sure though). This means MSG, the Sabres regional carrier, can not broadcast the games that NBC chooses. So as long Sabre games keep garnering ratings, you’ll keep seeing them up until NBC exhausts the number of games they’ve contracted for.

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