The Sabres are off today and return to the practice ice Monday morning to get ready for another huge week. They play Tuesday at Toronto, host the red-hot New York Rangers on Wednesday, play Saturday night in Washington and then play next Sunday in Carolina. So that quartet of games will pretty much determine their fate. They've got a five-point lead with seven to play. They're 4-0-1 since Lindy Ruff anointed the final dozen as a "best-of-12" and challenged his team to win seven.
So all they really need to do is hold serve and they'll be in. Here's a look at a wild Saturday in the NHL starting in the good ol' B-Lo:
---The Sabres have completed the long, slow climb from 3-9-2 into the playoff race. And now they're looking up, perhaps as high as sixth in the East, after Saturday's 2-0 win over the stick-a-fork-in-em-Devils.
---One bummer from Saturday's game: The news that Jordan Leopold is done for the regular season, and probably longer, with a broken bone in his hand. He's been a real key for the offense from the backline.
---Bucky Gleason writes about the shared journey Lindy Ruff and Devils coach Jacques Lemaire have experienced this season in bringing teams back from a long way out. Ruff got over the top while Lemaire's team has run out of time.
---The Devils played the first period like they thought their season was indeed over. Guess your $100 million player shouldn't announce publicly he thinks his team is done, like Ilya Kovalchuk did after Friday's loss in Pittsburgh. The Devils are now on a franchise-record scoreless streak since they landed in Jersey in 1982.
---Speaking of scoreless, the Canadiens and their fans have to be in full-blown panic mode after the Habs endured a third straight shutout for the first time since 1949 in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the visiting Capitals. Montreal had a season-low 18 shots on goal in the game and has gone 186:05 without a goal. Carey Price says the boos from the Bell Centre fans are warranted. Ya think?
---Henrik Lundqvist posted his career-high 11th shutout and his defense blocked an incredible 29 shots in the Rangers' 1-0 win at Boston. New York is 8-1-1 in its last 10, knocking aside thoughts that John Tortorella's coaching style was wearing the team down. Wednesday night at HSBC should be terrific hockey.
---The Hurricanes are down to their last gasp and weren't happy about a goaltender interference call against Erik Cole that proved costly in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Lightning. How much of a relief would it be for the Sabres to have that game in Raleigh next Sunday not mean the difference between in or out?
---The Sabres can almost certainly eliminate the Leafs with a win Tuesday after Toronto fell Saturday in Detroit, 4-2. The Wings got a big scare when goaltender Jimmy Howard suffered an upper-body injury on Toronto's second goal and had to leave the game. But he's listed as day-to-day.
---One player who is not day to day is Kings sniper Anze Kopitar. He suffered a broken ankle (right) in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Avalanche and that puts a major crimp in LA's hopes. The Kings have a six-point lead over ninth-place Dallas, which has eight games left, but how far can they go in the playoffs without their leading goal scorer and without Justin Williams (separated shoulder)?
---Can the defending Cup champion Blackhawks actually miss the playoffs? Sure can. They have just a one-point lead on Calgary and a two-point edge on Dallas with eight games left after a 2-1 home loss to Anaheim that allowed the Ducks to jump one point ahead of Chicago into seventh.
---And finally, in the late-night special that ended after 1 a.m., the Flames posted a 5-4 shootout win in Edmonton -- after trailing, 4-1, entering the third period. Chicago has 88 points, Calgary 87 and Dallas 86. The Flames, however, have only five games left.
Photos: The Sabres celebrate Saturday's win (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News) and Anze Kopitar in agony (Associated Press)