By John Vogl
The Sabres’ practice today was their first gathering since officially being eliminated from playoff contention with Friday’s 8-4 loss to the New York Rangers.
“It’s definitely tough because we still had hope and we were trying to do everything we could to finish strong and try and get in the playoffs,” defenseman Andrej Sekera said. “Even though we aren’t in the playoffs, we want to win every game when we play. That’s why you’re in this sport – because you want to be a winner. We want to go out, do our best and try to win these last three games.”
The Sabres have extra incentive Monday against Winnipeg. They lost, 4-1, to the Jets two weeks ago in a game that put a severe dent in their playoff chase. Winnipeg is just one point behind the eighth-place Rangers for the final playoff spot (New York hosts New Jersey later this afternoon), and Buffalo can get payback by trying to ruin the Jets’ season.
“I guess you can say jealousy breeds a little bit of frustration, and if they have a chance at this, we can possibly knock them off and make them feel the same way that we feel,” left wing Steve Ott said. “Personally and pride-wise, I would like to do that to another team so they can have this same feeling.”
Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston is using the lockout, which wiped out the first four months of the season, as a motivational tool to keep his eliminated club focused.
“Guys were dying to play,” Rolston said. “We talked about guys were dying to play games when the lockout was on. Everyone was dying to play hockey. Now they still have hockey to play. There’s three games and they have to be excited about it.”