Buffalo squandered a three-goal lead in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last week. The Sabres are the ones currently playing catch-up, only now its in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Sabres, who have fallen out of playoff position since losing to the Flyers, look to avoid their third straight loss when the teams conclude their season series Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Buffalo lost 4-3 in a shootout with Philadelphia on Feb. 25 despite scoring the game’s first three goals. It was the first time the Sabres (31-26-9) squandered a three-goal lead since March 15, 2004, when they lost 6-5 in overtime to Toronto.
Buffalo fell into a tie with Philadelphia (33-25-8) for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot after their last meeting. But the Sabres, losers of four of five overall, are now in ninth place, three points behind the seventh-place Flyers.
They fell 4-2 on Sunday night to league-leading Detroit.
“It’s a must-win for us,” Buffalo winger Drew Stafford said of Tuesday’s matchup. “It’s the one team we need to gain ground on. It’s desperate times for us.”
With the regular season winding down, Buffalo has been riding Ryan Miller in net. He has made 19 straight starts and could be showing signs of wear, having allowed 10 goals in his last two games. Miller also has given up 10 goals in his last two road games versus the Flyers.
“We have to get better,” Miller said. “There’s no excuses. Every last guy has to be smarter and better.”
The Sabres also have been struggling on offense, scoring only two goals in each of their last two contests.
Buffalo center Jochen Hecht has missed five straight games because of a pulled leg muscle and groin injury. Hecht, who has 17 goals and 37 points in 61 games, is uncertain for Tuesday’s matchup.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has scored four goals in each of its last two games. The Flyers followed a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Rangers on Sunday.
Last week’s win over Buffalo helped pull Philadelphia out of an 0-8-2 slump. The Flyers, trying to return to the postseason after a one-year absence, are 3-0-1 since that skid.
“It’s a good thing we got three points out of four this weekend,” Philadelphia backup goalie Antero Niittymaki said.
On Sunday, Vaclav Prospal scored his 30th goal of the season overall, but his first since being acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on Feb. 25.
“It’s a great relief,” Prospal said after reaching 30 goals in a season for the first time in his career. “I hope I’m not done (scoring), but it’s a very big number in the NHL.”
Prospal has scored a goal in three straight games against the Sabres, and has found the back of the net eight times while recording eight assists in his last 14 games against them. This will be his first matchup against the Buffalo since joining Philadelphia.
The Sabres lead the season series with the Flyers 2-0-1.