Milestone Night For Brad May Henny and Bob's Preview
The Buffalo Sabres are on the verge of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have known their disappointing fate much longer.
The Sabres look to keep their very slim postseason chances alive Wednesday night as they seek a fifth straight win over the rival Maple Leafs.
Just two years removed from a franchise record-tying 113 points, Buffalo (38-32-9) dropped to 90 points last season and will need to win its final three games to surpass that total this year.
The Sabres also need to win their final three games to have any chance at reaching the playoffs. They also must hope the New York Rangers lose their final two contests and Florida earns no better than three points in its last two games.
"It's tough. Until you're mathematically out of it, you can't quit. Even if you are, you can't quit," Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said. "We put ourselves in a tough spot."
A recent 4-0-1 stretch kept Buffalo's hopes alive but consecutive losses could prove too much to overcome for Lindy Ruff's team. A late third-period goal by Paul Gaustad was all the offense the Sabres could muster Monday in a 4-1 home loss to Detroit.
"It was quiet in there last night, walking in there after the game," Ruff told the team's official Web site Tuesday. "It was quiet. My job today was to try and pick them up. We've got to create the hope, and hope that we get some good help around us and go and win a game tomorrow night."
At least the Sabres will be playing an opponent they've had success against this season.
Buffalo has outscored Toronto 18-5 during four straight wins since losing the first meeting this season. The Sabres have won five in a row and nine of their last 11 visits to Air Canada Centre.
Miller is 4-1-0 with a 1.40 goals-against average and one shutout, while Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford each have seven points this season versus Toronto (33-34-13).
The Maple Leafs are assured of missing the playoffs for a franchise-record fourth consecutive season and need to win their final two games to match their 83 points from 2007-08.
After allowing 14 goals in their last two contests - both losses - the Leafs got an outstanding 47-save performance from Martin Gerber in a 4-1 victory at Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey on Tuesday.
"We did a much better job of pushing them away from the net," Gerber said. "It gives you a split second more time and you have a better chance to read the game. That's a big difference from the last two games."
Christian Hanson, the son of former hockey player-turned-actor Dave Hanson of "Slap Shot" fame, capped a three-goal first period with the first of his NHL career as Toronto won for the second time in six games despite being outshot 48-18.
Gerber has not faced the Sabres this season but is 4-0-2 with a 2.58 GAA in his last six starts against them - all with Ottawa.