Tonight's game against Washington is the 21st of the season for the Sabres at First Niagara Center. That means they'll be more than halfway through their home schedule at the end of the night. They're 8-9-3 in their refurbished home, hardly the record you would expect from a Stanley Cup contender.
So it's not early anymore, and the time for excuses is over. The Sabres are 11th in the Eastern Conference. They need to make a move soon or they'll be fighting for their playoff lives in the tightly bunched East. They haven't won consecutive games since Nov. 8-11. Tonight begins a stretch of four games in six nights after the Christmas break. Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht are expected back from injury. Thomas Vanek should be ready to play. This would be a good time for them to hit their long-awaited stride.
"You hope," Lindy Ruff said after the morning skate. "We really do have to put a run together. I think getting some bodies back should help. It starts with one game. I thought the Toronto game here at home was a pretty good indication. This game tonight, it's going to be a big game for us."
The Sabres are mired in a three-game losing streak, their first three-game regulation skid of the season. The Capitals, whose underachieving ways got coach Bruce Boudreau a pink slip, are one point ahead of the Sabres in the East with 36 points. These are the sort of games that can be decisive in a conference where teams are separated by just a few points.
It would be nice if the Sabres had any discernible advantage in front of their home crowd. Really, how can you take a team seriously when it loses 60 percent of its home games?