The desperate Buffalo Sabres have three games left to make their case for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and they'll host the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in the finale of a home-and-home series at First Niagara Center.
After suffering a pair of regulation losses over the weekend, Buffalo enters today trailing Washington by two points for the eighth and final postseason berth in the East. The Sabres have a game in hand to use tonight over the idle Capitals, who are off after losing to Tampa Bay on Monday.
This evening's tilt also marks the final home test of the regular season for Buffalo, which will visit Philadelphia and Boston to complete its schedule. The Sabres have built a 20-12-8 record at home this year compared to an 18-19-2 mark away from Buffalo.
The Sabres had won five straight before losing Friday to visiting Pittsburgh. Buffalo failed to rebound the following night in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs built a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes and then held on in the third period for a 4-3 decision.
Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, which was 7-0-2 in nine games before going 0-2 over the weekend. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 29 shots in defeat.
"I think we worked hard and we had some good chances at the end," said Ennis. "But now we're just going to have to win the next three [games]."
Buffalo will have to make its final stretch run without the help of key defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. The blueliner has sat out the last two games with a knee injury and is not expected to play in any of the Sabres' remaining regular season contests.
Sabres defensemen Tyler Myers (bruised foot) and Mike Weber (upper body) are questionable for tonight, as are forwards Matt Ellis (knee) and Nathan Gerbe (upper body).
John-Michael Liles and Joey Crabb registered a goal and an assist apiece on Saturday for the Maple Leafs, who will miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season.
Phil Kessel and Matt Frattin also lit the lamp for the Leafs, who snapped a franchise-record 11-game losing streak at home. Ben Scrivens made 29 saves in the win.
"Obviously everyone feels much better about themselves than they did two nights ago," Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said. "Hopefully that builds a little confidence in them."
Toronto has won three of its last four road games, but is still just 17-20-2 as the guest this season.
The Leafs have taken three of five meetings with Buffalo this season and six of the last eight encounters overall. The Sabres have taken two in a row and nine of their last 10 home games against Toronto.