In their desperate bid to make the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres are trying to do many things in tonights match-up. They are are trying not to lose in regulation, something they haven’t done since March 8th against Boston. They are trying not to lose two games in a row, something that hasn’t happened since February 16th and 17th. But more importantly they are trying not to allow a goal in the final 10 seconds of the game, something that has happened twice in 3 days.
Buffalo enters Florida in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings trail the 8th place Washington Capitals by 3 point. With a win Buffalo would put pressure on Washington, Florida and Winnipeg going forward. A regulation win would be desirable for Buffalo, they trail the pack in tie-breakers.
Florida sits first in their division and currently controls the 3 seed in the East. They sit 3 points back of the 2nd seed Ottawa Senators. The Senators would like to stave off the hard charging Sabres, Capitals and Jets with a regulation win as they continue the post-season push.
The season series shows Buffalo currently in the lead. The two teams met twice in October with the with the teams splitting the games. Buffalo defeated the Panthers on a Jason Pominville OT goal on December 9th.
Buffalo is still without stalwart defenseman Tyler Myers who will be serving game two of his three game suspension for boarding. Andrej Sekera is questionable to return to the lineup tonight. If he cannot play Brayden McNabb will once again get the start.
The Sabres have benefited from an unlikely component for the Cody Hodgson deal. Hodgson remains pointless as a Sabre, but fellow former-Canuck Alex Sulzer has been strong of late. Sulzer has a goal, an assist and has posted a +2 rating in 6 games as a Sabre.
The Sabres have also seen some improve play of late from Tyler Ennis. Ennis has 6 goals and 14 points in the last 15 games. Marcus Foligno has score 3 goals since being called up on March 8th. Jose Theodor has been strong for Florida putting up a 3-0-1 record in his last 4 starts.
Theodore will be opposed by one the hottest goaltenders in the NHL since the trade deadline. Ryan Miller has been unbeatable at times and game changing for the rest. He has kept his team in games when the struggle to score and against a defensive team like Florida he will likely have to do it again.
Florida will be getting some help for this game. Dimitri Kulikov and Kris Versteeg are expected to be back in the lineup against the Sabres. Nathan Gerbe and Andrej Sekera are questionable for Buffalo.