The Sabres are on their fourth three-game winning streak of the season -- all of which have come under interim coach Ron Rolston. They've yet to get win No. 4 for any of those streaks, and they need to do it tonight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The New York Rangers are in town, with the Sabres desperately needing a regulation win because they're four points behind the Rangers in the race for eighth place in the East and the Blueshirts have a game in hand.
The Sabres' hope will be left dangling by a thread if they get one point; officially in but with basically no hope. They will be officially out of the playoffs for the fourth time in six years if they lose in regulation tonight. They got zero help last night out of town, so their only hope basically comes down to the Sabres running the table in their last four games to finish at 52 points and holding on to the slim hope that will be enough.
"It starts with us winning," said winger Drew Stafford. "If we're not winning games, it doesn't matter what other teams are going to do. They'll help us maybe, but it starts with us getting the two points and making sure we're doing our job."
No white smoke over First Niagara Center this afternoon so the Sabres remain quiet on the trade front while taking today off from practice (seriously now, how could I resist that one?). Here's what's going through my head today in the wake of last night's 3-1 win over the Rangers:
“Do we become a younger team or do we become a team that’s going to build and try to get this core group of guys a chance to move forward?" Miller said. "Or are we not the core anymore? Who knows? They’re not decisions we make. We react off management and circumstance.”
Hmmm. Interesting. I'll be writing more on this topic in tomorrow's sports section.
Patrick Kaleta has two more games left on his NHL suspension so any retribution he might face from the New York Rangers will have to wait until the Blueshirts return here April 19. As for tonight, the Rangers have won five of their last six games and plan on making it six out of seven.
"It's over and done with as far as I'm concerned," said Brad Richards, the victim of the Kaleta cross-check the resulted in a game-changing major penalty. "The league took care of what they thought they could take care of and we're here to win a hockey game."
Richards missed two games after the hit and has scored in each of the two games since his return while playing with Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin.
Still, it was pretty odd how quickly Richards returned; NHL senior vice president for player safety Brendan Shanahan usually takes injuries into account on his supplemental discipline decisions and the fact Richards came right back will help Kaleta some. But only some.
Kaleta had a four-game suspension in 2011 for a head-butt and his reputation around the league is plain terrible. Look what Mark Spector, a senior columnist for Sportsnet.ca, tweeted last night: "Patrick Kaleta is a dangerous, irresponsible player. Has been for years. Game doesn't need him. Be a better place without him."
NEW YORK -- Patrick Kaleta apparently had nothing to say. The New York Rangers said plenty.
Kaleta was ejected in the third period of the Sabres' 3-2 shootout loss in New York on Sunday night for boarding Brad Richards. The Sabres right winger, who is expected to have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL, was not in the dressing room following the game. A team spokesman said he would not comment.
"That's just stupidity," Richards said of the hit. "If we're all going to look at each other's numbers, ram each other from behind headfirst into the boards, it's going to be a tough game to play. It's not hockey.
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.