Playoff positioning at stake tonight for Flyers-Sabres
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
FLYERS (46-25-9--101pts) vs. SABRES (39-31-10--88pts)
1. IT'S COMPLICATED
The Flyers can officially clinch at least the fifth seed and be guaranteed to play the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight IF …
The Flyers gain at least ONE point in tonight's game…
The New Jersey Devils LOSE in any way to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Pittsburgh Penguins could clinch the fourth seed in the East with a win over the NY Rangers tonight.
The Flyers could knock the Sabres out of the playoff race tonight IF they defeat Buffalo in regulation AND the Washington Capitals win their game vs. Florida.
2. SWEEPY FEELING
The Flyers have won all three meetings against the Sabres this season, going 3-0-0 and averaging five goals per-game in the process… With a victory it would be the second time in the last four years that the Flyers have won all four games in the season series against Buffalo.
3. SABRES SLICING THROUGH OPPONENTS
The Sabres come into tonight's game red-hot, having earned at least a point in 10 of their last 12 games, going 8-2-2 in the process… Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller has started all 12 of those games.
4. Player to watch SABRES: Tyler Ennis
Ennis is currently riding a four-game point streak with Buffalo, posting three goals and seven points in that span.
5. Player to watch FLYERS: Claude Giroux
Giroux has six points in his last two games, posting a goal and five assists… He has also been a Sabre-killer in the season series so far. In three games, Giroux has 10 points, recording a goal and nine assists.
Last 10: Buffalo 6-2-2; Philadelphia 5-3-2
The Flyers will go for the season sweep when the teams meet Thursday. In their most recent game, the Sabres took a 2-0 lead and the Flyers then scored the next seven in a 7-2 win in Philadelphia.
It's a potential must-win game for the Sabres, who would be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose in regulation and the Capitals win their game Thursday against the Panthers.
Already missing defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, the Sabres suffered another blow when blueliner Tyler Myers was ruled out of the team's final two regular-season games, Thursday at the Flyers and Saturday at the Bruins, due to what coach Lindy Ruff called a "bad foot."
"He won't be on the trip," Ruff told reporters Wednesday. "Tyler's out. It'll be a period of time. What time frame that is? It's more than just this week."
In three games without Ehrhoff and Myers, the Sabres allowed 14 goals, including five in a 6-5 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"We went through that game, we went through the first period, went through the chances, and emphasized the importance of staying inside some of the mistakes we made," Ruff said. "Some of it was lack of communication. Some of it was the coverage. But we do have to tighten up, there's no secret. That's on myself and my staff to make sure that we tighten up those areas so it's not a game where you give 16 or 17 [chances]. We've got to get it back to the norm, which is somewhere around 10 or 11, in that area. And not give up the high quality."
In his first game back after missing three with a chip fracture in his right foot, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
allowed five goals on 24 shots. That wasn't the kind of play that earned him the NHL's Player of the Month award for March, but none of his teammates saw anything wrong with him.
"He looked good," Claude Giroux
said. "Obviously, with his foot, I don't know how he's feeling, but we're not worried about him. He knows what to do, he's a good goalie and he'll find a way to play at his best."
Bryzgalov deflected talk of the condition of his foot after Tuesday's game.
"I think I can be better," he said. "I think I could play better. Like I said before, I was rusty and after missing a couple games and practices I have to recreate the game motions again."
Since the beginning of March, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is 11-3-2 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. … Flyers center Claude Giroux
has 6 points in his last two games, and 92 on the season. It's the most points scored by a Philadelphia player since Eric Lindros had 93 in 1998-99.
Ehrhoff (knee) and Tyler Myers (foot) are out for the Sabres. Forward Matt Ellis (knee) is questionable. … Flyers forwards James van Riemsdyk
(foot) and Danny Briere
(back) and defensemen Andrej Meszaros
(back) and Nicklas Grossmann
(lower body) are out.
Since absorbing that 7-2 loss the last time they played the Flyers, the Sabres are 15-4-4.
After Thursday's game, the Flyers will head back to Pittsburgh, where they are unbeaten in the last two seasons.
However, one off-ice reason for their success might be missing -- their post-game meal.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has credited post-game ribs delivered right to their plane from Dee Jay's in Weirton, W.Va., as one major reason for the team's success.
Laviolette became friendly with Dee Jay's owner Dewey Guida during Laviolette's tenure as coach of the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.
Guida, however, is a Penguins fan, and said his restaurant no longer will be delivering food to the Flyers.
"No more ribs for them," Guida told the Steubenville (Ohio) Herald-Star. "And I pray, I hope, that the Penguins beat their skates off."