In order to keep its playoff hopes alive, Buffalo knows it has to keep winning and hope for the best.
The Sabres will be fighting off postseason elimination on Tuesday when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Buffalo (37-30-12) is five points behind the postseason cut off in the Eastern Conference and will be eliminated from playoff contention with its next regulation loss. The Sabres won the Presidents’ Trophy last season with the best record in the NHL, and are trying to avoid becoming just the third team since the NHL’s expansion era began in 1967-68 to miss the playoffs a year after finishing first in the regular-season standings.
The New York Rangers missed the playoffs in 1992-93, as did Montreal in 1969-70.
The Sabres are also trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth time this decade, which would be the most in a decade since the franchise was established in 1970.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” goalie Ryan Miller said. “We’re going to need some help, but we have to help ourselves first or else it’s all a moot point.”
The Sabres, who have reached the Eastern Conference finals in each of the last two seasons, staved off elimination on Sunday, beating Boston 2-1 in overtime. Rookie defenseman Andrej Sekera scored 39 seconds into the extra period, helping Buffalo bounce back after blowing a two-goal lead in the final three minutes of Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal.
“It’s an awesome feeling, it’s unbelievable, I can’t describe it,” said Sekera, who scored just the second goal of his career. “But the most important point is we get the two points. We’re not dead yet.”
The win came in the final home game of the regular season for Buffalo, which wraps up its schedule with three road contests. The Sabres are 17-15-6 away from home, and have won nine of 13 on the road.
“We won the game. We’re not going to start nitpicking,” captain Jason Pominville said. “We had that sense of urgency. … We played well from start to finish. We deserved to win.”
Buffalo has won three of four against Toronto (36-33-10), but lost 4-1 at home in the last meeting on March 21.
The Maple Leafs were eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday’s 4-2 loss in Boston. However, they have won four of six, including Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Northeast Division-leading Montreal.
“We had decided after the Boston game to split the next two games, and Andrew will play tomorrow,” coach Paul Maurice said.
Raycroft is 7-9-1 with a 3.06 goals-against average in 18 career games against the Sabres, but 2-0-1 in his last three starts versus them. He made 30 saves in a 3-0 win on Nov. 9 in his last start against Buffalo.
“They’re in desperation mode, so I’m sure I’ll get some work, and it’ll be fun to try and stop some pucks,” Raycroft said.