NEW YORK --
For Buffalo Sabres
defenseman Jordan Leopold
, Friday night's matchup with the New York Rangers
doesn't have any added meaning as a potential 1 vs. 8 matchup in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in a few weeks.
Instead, Leopold is focused on the fact the Sabres have control over their playoff destiny with eight games to play. They are one point behind the Capitals for the eighth spot in the East, but if the Sabres win the rest of their games, which includes one against the Caps, they will be in the playoffs.
"We look at it is as controlling our destiny. We have that opportunity if we win out, so this is just another one of those games coming down the stretch we need to get," Leopold told NHL.com. "We're playing one of the best teams in the League right now and have definitely had our number this year (the Rangers have won all three meetings). We need the two points desperately."
The Sabres are in a similar position to last season, when a 19-20-5 start was followed by a 24-9-5 finish to earn a playoff berth. This year, the Sabres' slow start was more about injuries to key players -- goaltender Ryan Miller
, defenseman Tyler Myers
and center Jochen Hecht
just to name a few -- but their current 15-5-3 run has them knocking on the postseason door once again.
"We had a lot of injuries this year. You don't want to use it as an excuse, but it's a fact," Leopold said. "You look at that, and it's definitely played a role in getting us a little bit behind the 8 ball. We've totally climbed our way out of this when everyone said we couldn't and put ourselves in a good position. With eight games remaining, we have a good opportunity if we get the right amount of points, we can get to the magic number and make the playoffs."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo