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Destination: Playoffs?

With the Sabres’ overtime loss Thursday night, coupled with a New York Rangers loss, the Buffalo Sabres not only have recorded at least a point in their last five games, but they remain two points out of eighth.

Don’t worry, the news gets better from there. The New York Rangers currently sit eighth with 70 points and they have played three more games than the Sabres. Hold off on dancing in the streets. Tough opponents are on the horizon, but having games in hand is great news for the organization.

Let’s take a quick look foward. In the next five games, the Sabres will face the Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Games, like the aforementioned five, can easily tell the Sabres where they rank among playoff contenders. The Flyers, Penguins and Bruins are almost a lock for the playoffs where as the Wild and Maple Leafs are fighting for their playoff lives.

The charge for the playoffs begins with goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller is 3-0-2 during Buffalo’s five-game point streak and he has not allowed more than three goals a game in that span. The Buffalo Sabres have shown that they sink or swim based on their goaltender’s success or lack there of.

Moving over to the offensive side of the puck now. Newly-acquired winger Brad Boyes is definitely doing his part in helping the Sabres on their playoff run. Boyes has two goals in two games, along with a plus/minus rating of one.

People in Buffalo will quickly fall in love with Boyes if he continues his goal scoring but they must remember what kind of goal scorer he is. Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier knew what he was getting in Brad Boyes. Boyes is a streaky scorer, much like the other goal scores in Buffalo.

With Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford currently on what seems to be a cold streak, Boyes could be the bridge until Vanek and Stafford get luke-warm again.

Another forward that has recently been helping the Sabres out is Jochen Hecht. Hecht, who has struggled on and off this season, is currently on the upswing again. He has four points in his last five games (two goals, two assists and a plus/minus of four).

Not only have forwards been standing up, defensemen have been playing great as well. One defenseman in particular is Andrej Sekera.

Sekera was a healthy scratch for three straight games during late February before being inserted back into the lineup on February 26 against the Detroit Red Wings. He responded by going on a tear. Sekera is currently riding a three-game point streak (one goal, five assists and a plus/minus of three).

Sekera, who spent most of the season playing for his job, shouldn’t have to worry too much about his playing time at the moment. With six points in three games, his spot in the starting line-up is currently safe.

Although great goaltending, mixed in with some heavy goal scoring and great defensive play, can lead to the playoffs, I do not believe any of those are the Sabres’ biggest assets.

Buffalo’s biggest asset in this run for the playoffs is head coach Lindy Ruff, a man who coaches with a “I don’t care who you are” kind of style. Ruff has been through many different styles of teams throughout his 13 years as Sabres head coach. The team he currently has seems like one of the most comfortable he’s had in recent years.

I know your first comeback will be, “Well, look at their record!”. I do agree, the record could be a little better but you have to remember that the Sabres start to the season was absolutely terrible. Do you remember when people were calling to have Lindy Ruff fired?

Ruff has done an amazing job to turn the Sabres around into a playoff contender. A lot of this can be contributed to the, previously mentioned, style of coaching. As you’ve seen throughout the season, Ruff has not hesitated to bench a player if he has become a liability to the team due to poor game performances. Gerbe, Butler, Sekera and most-recently, Rob Niedermayer have all taken a seat up in the press box.

This mentality has seemed to really work throughout the season. Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera have especially benefited from spending games off of the ice. Although, Butler may be a press box casualty once defenseman Jordan Leopold returns from his current upper-body injury.

After losing forward Derek Roy possibly for the rest of the season, the Buffalo Sabres were left for dead. Since Roy’s injury, the Sabres are 16-8-4, gaining 36 points in 28 games. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Do not count out these Buffalo Sabres if they make the playoffs. Yes, they have allowed one more goal than they have scored this season and maybe they can be inconsistent at times, but when the playoffs roll around, it is a whole new season.

Let’s just hope that the Buffalo Sabres are apart of that new season.

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