This evening’s tilt pits the Sabres against the Jets for all the marbles. Just a few weeks ago the playoffs looked like an impossible task for Buffalo, now the Sabres will look to continue their red hot play in Winnipeg with a chance to tie the Jets (70pts) for eighth place in the conference.
The eighth and final playoff seed is within the Sabres grasp thanks to a stretch that has seen Buffalo go 11-3-3 in their last 17 contests, including victories over juggernauts Pittsburgh, Boston, and Vancouver. Ryan Miller has been especially sharp during this run, with a .974% save percentage and 2 shutouts in his last three games.
Buffalo is coming off a 5-3 road victory over the league leading Vancouver Canucks, which came on the heels of back to back shutout victories in San Jose, and Anaheim. Now that the defensive corp has been healthy and playing together for a few weeks Buffalo has been able to tighten up in their own end, coupled with Miller’s resurgence and timely goalscoring, the stage is set for a run towards the post-season.
Some of the Sabres underachieving forwards are beginning to produce at just the right time. Ville Leino is coming off a two goal performance against Vancouver, and Brad Boyes has three points in as many games.
Newly acquired center Cody Hodgson is still searching for his first point as a Buffalo Sabre after coming over from Vancouver in a deal on deadline day. Hodgson has generated some good scoring opportunities with line-mates Tyler Ennis, and Drew Stafford, but has yet to find his way onto the scoresheet.
The other play involved in the Hodgson deal, defenseman Alex Sulzer, saw his first ice time in blue and gold Saturday night against his old team, but may return to the pressbox if Robyn Regehr is healthy enough to return to action.
The Sabres took Sunday off to rest except for Regehr who skated with assistant coach Kevyn Adams. Lindy Ruff wouldn’t go so far as to say Robyn would be in the lineup against Winnipeg, but with the Sabres sending Marcus Foligno back to Rochester all indications are Robyn will play.
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs during the regular season, with Buffalo having gone 1-1-1 against the Jets in their first three contests. The Sabres won the first matchup in overtime, but have dropped each of the last two.
Thanks to a Flyers victory over the Capitals, Buffalo can enter into a tie with Winnipeg in points with a regulation win. The Sabres would also have the tie-breaker at the moment as they have played fewer games than the Jets.
Winnipeg has dropped 2 of 3 coming into tonight’s matchup, but is coming off an impressive 7-0 dismantling of the Southeast Division leading Florida Panthers. The victory came with a price however, as defenseman Zach Bogosian suffered a wrist injury in the win and will not play against Buffalo.
The puck drops at the MTS Center at 8pm CST and will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network.