NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, April 8th (All times eastern)
Philadelphia Flyers (46-23-11) at Buffalo Sabres (41-29-10), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - There was a point in the season when it seemed like the Philadelphia Flyers were a lock to claim the Atlantic Division title and the top seed in the East. That time is not now.
The Flyers will try to avoid a fifth straight loss this evening, when they visit the playoff-hopeful Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Philadelphia enters today as the second seed in the Eastern Conference and is still one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the Atlantic lead. The Penguins have two games left just like the Flyers and play a road game tonight against the New York Islanders.
However, the Flyers, who cannot fall further than the fourth seed in the East, could actually clinch their first Atlantic crown since 2004 tonight if they beat Buffalo and Pittsburgh loses to the Islanders.
Philadelphia is also four points behind Washington and has a game in hand to use against the idle Capitals tonight. The Caps would secure the top seed if the Flyers lose this evening.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are currently seventh out of eight playoff seeds in the East and could clinch a postseason berth with a point tonight. Buffalo is one point ahead of the eighth-seeded New York Rangers and three ahead of Carolina.
Buffalo could have its franchise goaltender back to help in its postseason quest, as Ryan Miller is expected to start either tonight against the Flyers or tomorrow in the Sabres' regular-season finale in Columbus. Last year's Vezina Trophy winner has missed the previous four games with an upper body injury, but rookie backstop Jhonas Enroth has posted a 3-0-1 record in Miller's absence.
The Sabres won their second straight game and improved to 7-1-2 over their last 10 games with Tuesday's victory over visiting Tampa Bay. Thomas Vanek notched a hat trick to help Buffalo claim the 4-2 win over the Lightning.
Tim Connolly had a goal and two assists and Jason Pominville added two helpers for the Sabres. Enroth stopped 23 shots to improve his record to 8-2-2 on the year.
"We did a good job of limiting our turnovers cause they're a team that thrives off of that," said Connolly. "We're playing as a group and we're playing as a team out there and are moving things in the right direction."
This evening's tilt is Buffalo's final home test of the regular season. The Sabres are 20-16-4 as the host this year.
Philadelphia has an 0-3-1 record since its last win, a 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh on March 29, and the Flyers have just six victories over their last 19 games (6-8-5).
The Flyers were dealt an embarrassing loss Tuesday in Ottawa, as the Senators slammed Philly, 5-2, at Scotiabank Place. Jason Spezza recorded a goal and three assists to lead the bottom-feeding Senators to the victory.
Mike Richards notched both goals for the Flyers, while rookie Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 35 shots. Bobrovsky is expected to start tonight and has a 2-1-0 record and a 3.02 goals-against average against the Sabres this season.
Philadelphia has a strong 25-11-4 record as the guest this year and is playing its final road test of the regular season tonight. The Flyers will complete their schedule in tomorrow's home test against the New York Islanders.
Flyers forwards Danny Briere and Blair Betts have missed the last two games with lower body injuries and both players are questionable for today's contest. Briere is second on Philadelphia with 32 goals this season and Betts is one of the team's best penalty killers.
In other news, Philadelphia will also welcome Michael Leighton back to the fold tonight. Leighton, who was the Flyers' No. 1 goalie during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, cleared waivers on Wednesday and is expected to provide insurance for Bobrovsky and backup Brian Boucher.
Leighton has played in just one game for the Flyers this year and that was on Dec. 30. The journeyman missed the first few months of this season after undergoing back surgery.
04/08 11:16:06 ET