Lindy Ruff didn't need to pull out a big standings board at practice today. The Sabres know they are tied with eighth-place Washington at 84 points. They know they play the Capitals on Tuesday.
They know the game means more than any they've played so far.
"I don’t think I have to sell anything," Ruff said in First Niagara Center. "They know where they’re at. They understand where we can get to and how big the two points is. I shouldn’t have to sell it this time of year."
Although Tuesday's showdown in Washington could end up determining which team gets a playoff position, it is not a do-or-die game. Both squads will have five games left to determine their fate, though the head-to-head matchup will mean a lot.
"It’s a big game obviously for us, but we’ve got more games left after that," Ruff said. "It’s not the end of the world, but we know we need to play well."
Ryan Miller, who has preached since 2010 not to make any one game bigger than another, kept that mantra going today. He said his peace as the NHL's Second Star of the Week, earning the honor after winning four games while posting a 1.26 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin was the Third Star, while Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin was named the First Star.
"It’s not something you do on your own, and it’s definitely a team effort," said Miller, who will start for the 29th time in 31 games. "It’s just another game in a long line of games that are meaningful that we had to win. I’m not going to make it any different.
"We’ve had some challenges in the last few months, and this is another one."
The Sabres, who have an afternoon flight to D.C., will have wingers Nathan Gerbe (upper body) and Patrick Kaleta (thumb) at their disposal. Both have been cleared to play, and Ruff will decide Tuesday whether to use them.