BUFFALO — In reality, it’s a single game for the Sabres, one of 82 regular-season contests. Tonight’s anticipated eight-versus-nine tilt in Washington is potentially worth two points for them, just like any other game.
If the Sabres win, break their tie with the Capitals (84 points) and move into eighth place, they could quickly lose the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot again. Don’t forget, they stayed there less than a day after grabbing it Saturday.
Should they fall a point or two behind the Capitals, there are still five games left to make up the ground.
It’s not quite a do-or-die matchup. Boy, it sure feels like one, though.
The Capitals hold the tiebreaker, so the Sabres must finish with more points.
“It’s a huge game,” Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr said Monday inside the First Niagara Center. “To say it’s a big game is an understatement. It’s the biggest game we’ve faced all year. We just have to make sure we’re playing the way we have been. You don’t want to get yourself too worked up.”
Said Capitals coach Dale Hunter: “It’s definitely like the seventh game in the playoffs.”
The Sabres, winner of four straight, are trying not to overhype the game. They’ve lost some big games this month – road contests in Winnipeg, Boston and Florida – and rebounded each time.
“It’s a big game obviously for us,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “But we’ve got more games left after that. It’s not the end of the world. … I don’t think I have to sell anything. They know where they’re at. They understand where we can get to and how big the two (points) is.”
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has been calling the remaining schedule “just one big hockey game.”