This is one of those weekends that you could bill as the biggest of the season, until the next set of back-to-back games rolls along. So I will refrain from dubbing tonight’s game against Florida and tomorrow’s against New Jersey as the two most important games of the year.
However, the Sabres are in a position of power and can tighten their grip on a playoff spot if they take at least three of four this weekend. In actuality they could split the weekend and maintain the same lead they have on Carolina going in to tonight. There are so many different ways this can play out you can nail down one option and say “this is how it has to be.”
The obvious worst case scenario is if the Sabres drop both games in regulation while the Canes sweep Tampa Bay, thus taking control over eighth place. The result isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility based on the teams involved. Carolina is desperate and is facing a slumping hockey club in the Lighting for a set of home and home games. Meanwhile, Buffalo has looked horrible against the Panthers this year while the Devils are just a scary team all around lately. On paper you might think the Sabres are playing two weak sisters while the Canes are in for tough sledding. But I think Buffalo is in just as much trouble as Carolina could be.
The Sabres do need a strong outing this weekend. I hope Jhonas Enroth gets the nod in goal tomorrow. Let the kid get another game, make sure Ryan Miller remains rested for another big set of games next week.
I mentioned it before, but three of four points is probably an ideal result. Especially if the Canes only take two points from Tampa. The closer Buffalo gets to the finish line with a similar or slightly larger lead, the better shape they will be in. I’m obviously hoping that the Canes get swept this weekend and the Sabres can extend their lead to at least five points by the start of next week.