WASHINGTON -- If I had one paragraph to take back from today's story about the Derek Roy line, it would be right near the end where I talk about the playoff race. I still think it's probably over but I probably should have waited another few hours.
The Sabres have lived for a few weeks off the time-is-left theory but we all know that doesn't hold water any more. What they do have in their favor is the swoon of the Rangers, who suddenly look like the most catchable team in the East when you look at the standings. The Rangers play tomorrow afternoon at Boston. A Buffalo win tonight coupled with a New York loss there could make tomorrow's HSBC visit from the Devils have a lot more importance than we might have thought when Thomas Vanek Kovalchuked away Wednesday's game in Atlanta.
Roy told me yesterday at the Caps' facility that he remembered the 2000-01 season in junior hockey with Kitchener, where his team needed just a win or tie in its final four games to make the OHL playoffs. But Roy's team lost all four and the London Knights finished 4-0 to steal a playoff spot.
The Sabres, of course, have major schedule issues with three division leaders in four nights (Washington, New Jersey, Detroit) and a trip to Carolina, which has won a franchise-record 10 in a row at home which to move into fourth -- yes, I said fourth -- in the East. And that April 11 finale with Boston could be huge for the Bruins too in their quest for the Presidents' Trophy.
The Devils are reeling, losers of six straight as they head into tonight's game against Tampa Bay (cheap plug: Check out John Vogl's update on Martin Brodeur in Saturday's paper). They could be ripe. But beat the Caps here? Tough to see.
---Paul Gaustad (elbow gash) will play tonight. Lindy Ruff did not attend today's optional skate so no word if there's any change on defense with Andrej Sekera and Teppo Numminen.
---Funny scene yesterday: The Sabres dressed in the Verizon Center but couldn't take the ice here because LeBron James & Co. were having their shootaround. So the Sabres players, dressed in full equipment minus skates, trudged through the arena basement to a waiting bus for the short trip across the Potomac to Arlington, Va. The Caps' facility is a nice one in an odd setup, as it's on the eighth floor of a huge shopping mall. Pretty cool.