Buffalo has found their way back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference. After spending the majority of the season out of the mix for the playoffs, the Sabres are very much back into it. The Sabres have been able to do it without last year’s leading scorer Derek Roy for most of the season but with the games dwindling and the pressure on to get into the playoffs, times are getting tougher health-wise.
Tonight’s crucial game against Pittsburgh will see the Sabres going to battle without a number of key players. Leading scorer Thomas Vanek (flu), Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, and Mike Grier are all out for tonight with other nagging injuries. Taking their spots in the lineup are Mark Mancari and today’s call-ups from the AHL Luke Adam and veteran Mark Parrish.
These issues pop up from time to time for any team, but when you’re caught in the midst of a playoff race against a difficult team like the Penguins, it can feel like the stars are aligning against you to keep you out of the playoffs. Coach Lindy Ruff has done well with his team of late as they’ve been resilient and a pain in the neck for opponents to deal with.
Making it all the more amazing is that superstar goalie Ryan Miller hasn’t been other-worldly good this season, just pretty damn good. While Miller was busy leading Team USA and winning the Vezina Trophy last year, his numbers this year are still good but not quite what you’d hope for out of the guy you’re asking to start virtually every game for you. With a .914 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average Miller ranks tied for 24th in save percentage and 31st in goals against average.
If Miller can show what he’s capable of while these injuries keep the Sabres shorthanded the confidence boost it’ll give to the team could be enough to keep them locked into a playoff spot.
Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff hopes are basically squashed, but Sunday should provide plenty of motivation: giving the Pittsburgh Penguins grief.
The two rivals will face off on NBCSN tonight with the Penguins hoping to improve their situation in the three-team Metropolitan race for the division crown (and, failing that, at least one round of home-ice advantage).
The Penguins must fight injuries and a cross-state rival. There should be plenty of talent on the ice, too, so this should be a fun one.
You can watch on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.
Click here for the livestream.
Sunday’s overtime win against the Wild wasn’t the last hurrah for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, but that time is rapidly approaching.
The Red Wings have four more dates at the historic building:
April 1: vs. Maple Leafs
April 3: vs. Senators
April 8: vs. Canadiens
April 9: vs. Devils
With the playoffs out of reach, Red Wings fans must grapple with the end of an era.
To help with that cause, Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena, which you can enjoy in the video above.
And, if it helps make the future look a little rosier, take a look at highlights from Sunday’s victory.
After missing nearly three weeks due to a lower body injury, Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net for the New York Rangers on Sunday night when the team visits the Anaheim Ducks.
Coach Alain Vigneault already said that Lundqvist is expected to start two of the three games on this west coast trip, and after Antti Raanta started and recorded the shutout in Los Angeles on Saturday night it seems that Lundqvist will finish the trip with starts against the Ducks and then again on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
Lundqvist has not played since March 7 when he stopped 43 out of 45 shots in a win over the Florida Panthers.
It was that game that Lundqvist suffered the injury that kept him out of the lineup.
Raanta played every game for the Rangers during his absence and continued what has been a strong season as Lundqvist’s primary backup, but if the Rangers are going to have a chance in the postseason they are not only going to need a healthy Lundqvist, but to also have him playing at the level he has been playing at over the past couple of months. Since the beginning of February Lundqvist has recorded a .931 save percentage in his 14 appearances for the Rangers.
Speaking of the postseason, the Rangers can clinch a spot in the playoffs on Sunday night with a win over the Ducks.
No official word from the Ducks on their starter on Sunday, but look for Jonathan Bernier to get an opportunity to continue his recent hot streak.
Elsewhere on Sunday…
— It was Devan Dubnyk going against Jimmy Howard in the early NBC game between the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings.
— Keith Kinkaid gets the start at home for the New Jersey Devils when they go against the Dallas Stars, who will be countering with Kari Lehtonen.
— Matt Murray goes for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they host their cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers went with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday so look for Steve Mason on Sunday.
— Michael Hutchinson will be in net for the Winnipeg Jets when they host the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have not announced their starter, but after Richard Bachman got the start on Saturday it should be Ryan Miller in net for this one.
Well, the good news for the Minnesota Wild is Sunday’s game in Detroit wasn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as their game on Saturday. They were at least competitive in this and took the game to overtime to earn a point in the standings.
The bad news is the result was pretty much the same — another loss in the standings.
Thanks to Andreas Athanasiou‘s 17th goal of the season 1:52 into the overtime period, the Red Wings were 3-2 winners on Sunday afternoon, sending the Wild to their 11th loss in 14 games this month.
The game continues Minnesota’s late-season collapse that has seen the team lose its stranglehold on the Central Division and play some of its worst hockey of the season with the playoffs just around the corner. They have collected just seven out of a possible 28 points in the standings this month and still sit seven points back of the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the division after Sunday. The Wild led the division by five points at the start of the month.
As bad as another loss is, this was far from the Wild’s worst game during this recent stretch. They limited Detroit to just 19 shots on goal, they had their chances to win it. But at the end of the day nobody in Minnesota wants to hear that right now because it’s still a loss, and it still looks like a team that is struggling to find answers on the ice. Not really the type of thing you want to see at this time of year.
Minnesota actually entered the third period with a 2-1 lead but let it slip away early in the period on a Tomas Tatar power play goal 55 seconds in. The Wild had their share of chances late in the game only to have Jimmy Howard make a couple of huge stops on Eric Staal and Jason Zucker in the final minute.
Staal did score his 26th goal of the season earlier in the game to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
As for the Red Wings, the win is their fourth in their past six games (and the fifth with at least a point during that stretch) while Henrik Zetterberg continued his recent strong play recording another assist.
Defenseman Mike Green also scored in the win.