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Flyers, Sabres Have Another High Stakes Showdown in April: A Fan’s Preview
The Philadelphia Flyers are not a desperate team, although their race to get home ice has entered a desperation phase. Flyers fans like myself thought the regular season finale with the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 7 would determine home ice for their playoff showdown. Instead, Philadelphia will be locked into the No. 5 seed if they lose to a team with much more to play for.
While the Flyers are already in the postseason, the Buffalo Sabres are trying to claw their way in. Winning in Philadelphia on April 5 will certainly help, as the Sabres hope that they don't have their season killed at the Wells Fargo Center for the second year in a row.
Buffalo comes into the game in a tie for the No. 8 seed with the Washington Capitals, so a loss might not destroy its season. However, losing this game without getting a point could make all the difference by the end of the final weekend. Meanwhile, the Flyers will just be stuck into the No. 5 seed with a loss in regulation - but at least they will still be in the playoffs.
While the Flyers are gearing up for a playoff bloodbath with the Penguins, they were going through one with the Sabres at this time last year. Buffalo used a late hot streak to get into the 2011 postseason, just as it is using one to make a charge towards the 2012 playoffs. When the Sabres got in last season, they nearly upset the Flyers before going down in seven games - so perhaps the New York Rangers need to watch out if Buffalo barges in this year as well.
12 months ago, the Flyers barely held on to win the Atlantic Division, yet they were clearly limping towards an early exit - which the Sabres nearly hastened. This time around, the Flyers aren't winning the division, although they have shown more life at the end of this regular season. However, they didn't show enough of it when they lost yet again to the Rangers on April 3 and became a long shot for playoff home ice.
Since Philadelphia is now almost locked into the No. 5 position, perhaps it won't go so all out in these final two games. At the least, it will be hard to go more all out than Buffalo, which is fighting for everything right now.
The playoffs have already started for the Sabres, whereas it may be time for the Flyers to rest up a bit. But if they try to win anyway, this battle may be a blast from the recent past, as the Sabres fight for their lives in Philadelphia for the second April in a row - albeit before the postseason.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
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