The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks have been making strong pushes since last month, but both teams suffered losses their last time out.
They know they can't afford too many more defeats if they want to overcome their poor starts and make the playoffs.
The clubs close out their season series with the Ducks looking to avoid a third straight loss to the Sabres on Wednesday night at Honda Center.
Anaheim (27-26-10) has been rolling since finally getting itself together in early January, going 17-4-4 in its last 25 games. The Ducks, though, still have a lot of work to do to overcome their rough start, as they're in 13th place in the Western Conference.
As well as they've been playing, defeats such as Monday's 4-1 loss at Colorado may prove very costly. The Ducks were seeking their third straight win but faded late against another team that has been playing desperate hockey as it tries to earn a postseason berth.
Anaheim was outscored 3-0 in the third period, perhaps a result of fatigue from playing for the third time in five nights.
"It's a grind for every team," center Rod Pelley said. "Every game is a playoff-atmosphere game and we're in a position where we can't have a night off or be sluggish or not have energy. Unfortunately, we can't afford that right now."
The Ducks, who went 6-2-2 during a stretch in which they played all but one game on the road, didn't make any moves at the trade deadline, preferring to stick with the roster that's worked them back into contention. They'll play their next two and three of four at home, where they've gone 9-1-1 in their last 11.
Buffalo (27-27-8) has also played much better of late, going 8-3-3 in its last 14, but the Sabres also face a predicament in having to leapfrog numerous teams to make the playoffs. They are in 12th place in the East and are also trying to hold off three clubs that are just a few points behind them.
The Sabres have been off since Saturday, when they managed to pick up a point but were unable to hold a third-period lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers. Drew Stafford's second goal of the game 44 seconds into the third put Buffalo up 2-1, but the Rangers answered less than 5 minutes later.
"We worked hard and we battled for a point," Stafford said. "We just have to keep our focus and doing our best. It's an uphill climb."
The Sabres, who had won three straight, have gone 3-0-2 in their last five.
"We could have won the game," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We need those extra points."
Cody Hodgson, acquired from Vancouver before the deadline Monday for fellow rookie forward Zack Kassian, could make his Sabres debut in this game.
Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller can tie a team record by making his 23rd straight start Wednesday, a mark held by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Guy Hebert. Hiller came into Monday having posted a 1.69 goals-against average in his previous 12 games.
Buffalo beat the Ducks 4-1 on Oct. 7 at home, getting two goals and an assist from Thomas Vanek and a goal and two assists from Jason Pominville.
The Sabres' Ryan Miller has allowed three goals in winning the last two meetings between the teams.
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