April 3, 2012
Sabres can't afford to stumble
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - On the verge of completing a death-defying playoff tightrope walk, the Buffalo Sabres don't want to stumble with the finish in sight.
After sitting 15th in the Eastern Conference on Jan. 24 and Feb. 18, the Sabres needed only to pass the hot-and-cold Washington Capitals at the start of the weekend to be the first team since conference play to leapfrog from last to eighth.
Then came a 4-3 loss to the Leafs, who had not won at home in 11 games.
That gave the hammer back to the Capitals, who lost 4-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Washington has a two-point lead in the standings and would win any tiebreaker with Buffalo.
After playing host to the Leafs tonight, the Sabres end their season with road games in Philadelphia and Boston.
Until losing to Pittsburgh and the Leafs, the Sabres had been playing about 10 games over .500.
"That's the part that hurts the most," coach Lindy Ruff told reporters on Monday. "We've put a lot of work and there's been a lot of desperation to this point.
"When you're running that high for that period of time, getting points, you've played big games and you're right there in a couple of games you really feel you should win, there's disappointment."
Whereas the Leafs were looking good early and collapsed in February, Buffalo will look back on its awful start, made worse by the hype around the team after new ownership increased payroll.
"The first part of the season looms over us," netminder Ryan Miller told the Olean Times Herald.
"The room for error was small. We made the error. We got to make up for that and give us the best chance to get in the postseason here. That's a win Tuesday night and go from there."