PITTSBURGH (LGS) — With four games remaining in the regular season, all the Buffalo Sabres need to clinch home-ice advantage is one victory.
The team will get a second chance at that win Tuesday night in Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena, where they face off against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a nationally televised 7 p.m. game (VS-TV/WGR-AM).
Buffalo (50-21-7) failed in its first opportunity to clinch the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 playoff seed with a 4-3 loss in Montreal on Saturday.
Backup goaltender Ty Conklin took the loss, while Dainius Zubrus, Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek scored for the Sabres.
With only two points separating the team from the conference honor, the team could begin looking for a run at the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season. The Sabres have never won the trophy in their 37-year history.
However, the team is not even discussing it, Chris Drury said.
“It’s not something we’re chasing,” he said. “We know it’s there. But it’s more important that we are playing well going in, and not necessarily worrying about that (the Presidents’ Trophy).”
As for the team’s approach to the Penguins, the only remaining game against a playoff contender, Lindy Ruff said that the Sabres need to be ready to go.
“You’re looking at a team that’s been as good as any team the second half of the year,” he said. “So we want to be ready to play.
“We’ve taken steps in improving our defense and eliminating shots and keeping that area down. This will be a good test against a team that has gone real well offensively.”
With the likes of Crosby, rookie-of-the-year candidate Evgeni Malkin, Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi, the Penguins (45-23-11) have made a late-season push to overtake the New Jersey Devils as the Atlantic Division leaders.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Drury said of the Penguins. “Offensively they are extremely talented. It is a fun challenge. They have so many great young players, and even on (defense). They’re fun games to be in.”
Pittsburgh managed a point Saturday in Toronto, rallying from a 4-2 deficit to force overtime. Pittsburgh’s success certainly played a role in the firing of the Devils' head coach on Monday, despite New Jersey being the second seed in the East.
“We were fortunate to get a point,” Roberts told the Associated Press. “When you play in this atmosphere and the environment you got to be on your toes.”
Crosby has become lethal against Buffalo. In seven games against the Sabres, he has amassed four goals and five assists, including a goal, two assists and the eventual shootout winner on March 13 in Pittsburgh.
This is the final meeting between the two offensive powerhouses this regular season. Buffalo won the first game of the series 4-2 on Nov. 17 but has lost the last two.
The Sabres will host the Boston Bruins Thursday night in their final home game of the regular season.
Fun Fact of the Game:
Since the lockout, Buffalo has gone 5-1-1 against the Penguins, including 4-0 last season.