The Sabres will likely sit some of their top players again as they try to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Senators, who are playing their season finale Saturday night just hours after announcing Alex Kovalev(notes) will miss the playoffs.
With the Northeast Division title wrapped up, Buffalo (44-26-10) gave its banged-up players a break in a 3-1 loss to Boston on Thursday night.
The Sabres are one point behind New Jersey for second place in the Eastern Conference, but they have decided the extra rest for the players might be worth more than trying to secure a higher seed.
“It’s tough. You’re playing with different guys every night, guys are switching during games,” center Derek Roy(notes) said. “We’ve got to get healthy for the playoffs. We need everybody. We need this whole team.”
Patrick Lalime(notes) played with the flu so No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller(notes) could rest. The Sabres were also without leading scorer Tim Connolly(notes) (foot), No. 4 scorer Thomas Vanek(notes) (unspecified injury) and defenseman Craig Rivet(notes) (flu).
Ottawa (44-31-6) was short-handed in its last matchup with Buffalo, but that didn’t stop it from extending its run in the series with a 4-2 victory March 26. The Senators were without Kovalev and Milan Michalek(notes) due to injuries as they improved to 25-6-4 against the Sabres since the start of 2005-06.
Kovalev, fourth on the team with 49 points, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Ottawa, which will finish in fifth place in the East, will face Pittsburgh or New Jersey in the first round. Buffalo’s playoff opponent remains uncertain.
A secured playoff spot has given Ottawa an opportunity to rest its players.
The Senators, though, continue to play hard, going 7-1-1 in their last nine. Ottawa trailed 3-0 before losing Thursday night.
The Senators were able to give defenseman Jared Cowen(notes), their 2009 first-round pick, his league debut. With Anton Volchenkov(notes) getting the night off, the 19-year-old Cowen saw nearly 7 minutes of ice time.
Defenseman Tyler Myers(notes) continues to play a crucial role in the Sabres’ success. Myers, the 12th overall pick in 2008, appears to be the front-runner for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL rookie of the year.
“It’s hard not to hear those whispers about the Calder and what not,” Myers said. “You take it all in, but at the end of the day, you just have to focus on what you have to do here with the team. And I think I’ve done that for the most part.”
Myers has 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) to lead all Sabres defensemen and ranks fifth on the team overall. Myers, though, has been held without a point in five games against the Senators.