BUFFALO - BUFFALO — Tyler Ennis saw no reason not to dig out last year’s Stanley Cup T-shirt for the Sabres' Tuesday morning skate, the one with 16 Ws split by eight team logos down each shoulder.
“It’s a little good luck charm,” Ennis said, with a playoff spot possibly hinging on beating Toronto in Tuesday’s rematch. “You always have to be focused on the prize, you always want to win it.”
The Sabres only lasted one round last season, losing in seven to the Flyers. But at this stage, they just want back in after a long climb from 15th place in the conference at mid-February to within three points of passing Washington. Buffalo has three games to play.
Ennis must have been wearing his shirt on Monday night as the Caps tied the Tampa Bay Lightning late in the third period, only to have Steven Stamkos bail them out with 1:03 to play.
“They did us a favour, but that means we have to do our job tonight,” Ennis said.
Coach Lindy Ruff still won’t have his blueline stalwarts Tyler Myers and Christian Eherhoff back in time to face the Leafs, but is hoping winger Nathan Gerbe and defenceman Mike Weber are ready after both practiced in the morning. Ruff didn’t look too hard to pinpoint where his team must take a different tact from Saturday’s 4-3 loss at the ACC.
“Our first three or four shifts were textbook,” Ruff said. “But we got knocked off the puck too easily. We made the big mistake, gave them the (Joey Crabb) breakaway. Our big mistakes have to be less.
“The puck was on our key players’ stick many times. I think at the end of the night the one (phrase) you don’t want to hear is ‘I should have done something.' Just get it done.”
This has been a long, strange ride for the small-market Sabres, who are often ignored most of the year and then make a playoff run. This season they spent heavily with the big boys, but might come up short. As Ruff pointed out, however, he’s sitting where about 11 eliminated teams would like to be — alive going into the final weekend of the regular season.
“It’s a good opportunity,” Ruff said. “It tells you a lot about your players. Under pressure, you have to see what your players can do. If you can’t get it done, it means you’re not good enough. We’ve been pushing hard, having fun and went a long period without losing in regulation (just twice between Feb. 17 and March 17).”
Ben Scrivens makes his second straight start for the Leafs, hoping to duplicate Saturday’s 29-save win.
“I don’t know if I’m a catalyst or what it is,” the Marlies’ call-up said. “This team has the ability to win, I was just fortunate to be put in the position where we came up with one.”