GAME: Buffalo Sabres (31-31-6-4) at Atlanta Thrashers (29-34-7-3).
TIME: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Buffalo Sabres certainly aren't making this easy on themselves.
After blowing leads in each of their last three games, the Sabres continue
their pursuit of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference when they
open a three-game road trip against the Atlanta Thrashers.
For the third straight game, the Sabres squandered a lead and settled for
one point as they lost 6-5 in overtime to Toronto on Monday.
Two goals and two assists from Jochen Hecht helped Buffalo build a 5-2 lead
after two periods, but Toronto scored three times in the final 20 minutes and
Tomas Kaberle beat Martin Biron with 75 seconds left in overtime.
It was the third straight overtime loss for the Sabres, who blew leads of
2-1 and 2-0 in a home-and-home series with Boston on Thursday and Saturday.
Buffalo - ninth in the East - is trying to catch the New York Islanders for
the last playoff spot.
"Words really can't say how bad we feel right now," Buffalo's Jay McKee
said. "The frustrating and disappointing part is we don't want to put
ourselves in a position where we look back at the end of the season and ask,
Making matters worse for the Sabres was a mild concussion sustained by
center Chris Drury - the team's fourth-leading scorer - in the first period
Monday. Drury will be sidelined for at least a week.
"I thought what Nieuwendyk did is on the lines of a suspension," Sabres
coach Lindy Ruff said. "The guy has his helmet off and he fell on him and
pounded his head into the ice. It was a gutless play on his part."
Buffalo also learned Tuesday that defenseman Alexei Zhitnik will miss the
rest of the regular season with a right shoulder injury. Zhitnik originally
injured his shoulder on March 7.
Sabres center Daniel Briere had a goal and an assist Monday, giving him four
goals and four assists during a six-game point streak.
Atlanta is on the fringe of the playoff race in the East, sitting four
points behind Buffalo in 11th place.
Dany Heatley scored 1:43 into overtime and Pasi Nurminen stopped 31 shots
for his third shutout of the season, leading the Thrashers to a 1-0 victory
over Carolina on Monday.
"We pretty much have to win every game," Nurminen said. "Ties are not
enough. We have to get two points."
Monday's win gave Atlanta a franchise-record 16 at home this season. The
Thrashers have at least a point in seven of their last nine games (5-2-1-1).
STANDINGS (through March 15): Sabres - 72 points, 5th place, 19 PB,
Northeast Division. Thrashers - 68 points, 3rd place, 27 PB, Southeast
TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Miroslav Satan, 28 goals; Briere, 32 assists and 57
points; Andrew Peters, 124 PIM. Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 37 goals, 40
assists and 77 points; Francis Lessard, 137 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 15): Sabres - Power play: 15.7 percent (49 for
312), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (259 for 306), 9th. Thrashers
- Power play: 14.8 percent (53 for 358), 23rd. Penalty killing: 85.9 percent
(292 for 340), 2nd.
GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Biron (20-17-4, 1 SO, 2.72 GAA); Mika Noronen
(11-15-2, 2, 2.47). Thrashers - Nurminen (25-26-6, 3, 2.72); Kari Lehtonen (no
SEASON SERIES: Thrashers, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 16; Sabres, 7-2. At Buffalo, N.Y., Satan scored a
career-high four goals, and Briere had a goal and two assists to lead the
Sabres to their fourth straight win.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 13-19-2-1 on the road; Thrashers - 16-15-4-1 at