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Hurricanes kick off second half vs. Sabres

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes have had a solid stretch to reach the midway mark of their season.

They need it to be even better across the second half.

"We know we're going to have to go at a better pace than we did in the first half (of the season)," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "There's 41 games left. There's a lot of points left on the table. At some point we are going to have to go on a big-time, continuous streak."

They begin that quest Friday night against the visiting Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena.

Both teams are out of the playoff mix at the moment, but the Hurricanes are on the cusp of climbing into position for a postseason spot with a 19-15-7 record.

Part of the reason for the renewed optimism comes because of victories in 12 of the last 14 home games. The matchup with Buffalo represents the third game of a four-game homestand.

Both teams have encountered the Boston Bruins in recent weeks, with the Hurricanes winning twice and the Sabres falling twice. But those results might have inspired the Sabres, who won three of five games since a pair of losses to Boston.

"Anger of not winning them. That has been a response of that disappointment and that anger," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think you're seeing a response from our team of desperation and a desperate point in the season for us. ... Playing the right way, that's a big challenge for our group."

However, the Sabres suffered a 4-2 loss Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

The turnaround for Carolina comes after only three victories in the first 13 games.

"We shouldn't have been (with that kind of record)," Peters said. "I don't know what we should have been, but better than that."

The Hurricanes have won twice this week. While the Sabres will play in the back end of games on consecutive nights, the Hurricanes will be in a front end because they face the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

So, it's an important stretch to begin the second half of the season.

"The job is only half done. We have a lot of hockey left," Carolina left winger Jeff Skinner said. "We have a lot of games coming up against divisional opponents."

Part of the reason for Buffalo's better play at times might be a more complete lineup.

"We don't want to say we were waiting for it to settle down, but guys are getting healthy for the most part," forward Sam Reinhart said.

The Sabres have clicked at times recently on power plays and they'll be going against Carolina's strong penalty-killing units.

"If it doesn't happen this power play, we think about how it's going to help us the next power play," Reinhart said of the attitude.

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward is scheduled to make his 18th consecutive start. It will mark his 600th career NHL game, all with Carolina.

This is the third and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Hurricanes won twice last month.

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