‘Expectation’ for Buffalo to make playoffs, says Gionta

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Brian Gionta has played in the NHL 12 years, and only missed the playoffs once.

He doesn’t plan on doing it twice.

“My expectation is to make the playoffs. I didn’t go [to Buffalo] to sit around and watch the playoffs on TV,” Gionta said, per ESPN. “The expectation is to make the playoffs and continue to grow and build. I think that’s the first step. I think it’s a realistic step to try to get in there in the playoffs.”

A centerpiece of Buffalo’s veteran-laden free agent summer coup — along with Josh Gorges, Matt Moulson, Andrej Meszaros, Cody McCormick and Andre Benoit — Gionta provides the Sabres with immense postseason experience. A veteran of over 100 playoff games (112, to be exact), Gionta won a Cup with the Devils in 2003 and went to a pair of Eastern Conference Finals with Montreal, finishing second on the team in goals (nine) and points (15) in 2010.

The Sabres, though, aren’t exactly in a place to talk playoffs. The club is coming off one of the worst showings in franchise history and has just two postseason appearances in the last seven years, failing to advance past the first round both times. What’s more, parts of this year’s team are woefully inexperienced — at center, the club’s top three options could very well be Cody Hodgson (24 years old), Zemgus Girgensons (20) and Sam Reinhart (18).

That said, things can change in a hurry in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay was the No. 3 seed after finishing 14th during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, while the Islanders went the other way — going from an eighth seed in ’13 to missing the postseason by 14 points last year.