There are quite a few games on the schedule tonight that will directly effect the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The most pressing matchup for us obviously is the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers. While a loss doesn’t cripple us, it will hurt a little. The Rangers are ahead of us in the standings by two points. Even if the Sabres win, they would not jump over the Rangers, as the Rangers have more regular season wins in the same number of games.
The Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes also play tonight, and scoreboard watching we will do on this one, and its almost like a catch 22 – Montreal wins it keeps Carolina at arms length, Carolina wins it helps us catch Montreal. I am almost hoping for a Montreal win, because I would just rather not see the Hurricanes make the playoffs, regardless of where Buffalo ends up.
Expect Ryan Miller to do battle against Henrik Lundqvist tonight, and both goalies are coming off incredible games. Despite the 4 goals Miller let in defeat last night against Toronto, he has been playing pretty lights out since the Nashville implosion.
I would anticipate a low scoring affair tonight, as that has become the Rangers MO as of late – but a quick Sabres strike coupled with an offensive out put could have the Sabres looking at splitting the season series with the Rangers.
With four teams in the Eastern Conference a lock for the playoffs, it is going to come down to the last week of the season to figure out who will be joining the division leaders and Pittsburgh for the chase to Lord Stanley. A stark contrast to the Western Conference, where only Vancouver is a guarantee for the playoffs, having clinched the Conference for the regular season.
You can list all the cliches you want about tonight being a big two points, most important game of the season, a must win situation. What it boils down to is keep controlling your own destiny, if you win you are going to make it easier on yourself to make the playoffs and harder on those chasing you. I would hate to have come this far in this short amount of time for it to come out as a wash of a season and not make the playoffs. I am not giving up on the team – but with every loss we can sit and highlight why they won’t win anything with this roster, yet with every win we ask why not us this year?