Tuesday’s game in Washington marks game 77 of the 2011-12 season for the Buffalo Sabres, and it’s number 1,144 on the league calendar. But regardless of how you spin it, this will not have the feel of just another mid-week game.
“To say it’s a big game is an understatement,” said Robyn Regehr
. “It’s the biggest game we’ve faced all year.”
The Sabres head into the Verizon Center tied with the Capitals in points at 84, but occupy ninth place by virtue of the tiebreaker. The calendar may say March, but this is definitely going to have a playoff-like atmosphere.
“To be honest, every game since I’ve been up here has felt like a playoff game,” said rookie Corey Tropp
Even the veterans like Thomas Vanek
know what Tropp is talking about.
“Every game has had a playoff feel to it,” said Vanek. “It’s been like that since January.”
Head coach Lindy Ruff says there’s not much that he needs to say to his team at this point, because they know exactly what’s at stake.
“It’s an opportunity that we’ve worked hard for,” explained Ruff. “You get to play the team that’s right there in the standings with you. It’s big points for both teams.
To say it’s a big game is an understatement. It’s the biggest game we’ve faced all year. - Robyn Regehr
“It’s a big game obviously for us, but we’ve got (five) more games left after that. It’s not the end of the world. We know we need to play well. We know they’ve played better as of late. Ovechkin’s played better of late. I don’t think I have to sell anything. They know where they’re at. They understand where we can get to, and how big the two points are. I shouldn’t have to sell it this time of year.”
Ruff said that Patrick Kaleta
and Nathan Gerbe
have been cleared to play, and would be available to the team on Tuesday. Gerbe has missed the last six games with an upper body muscle strain, while Kaleta has been out for the past three games with a hand injury.
For the second time in the past three weeks, Ryan Miller
was recognized by the NHL as one of the “Stars of the Week.” Miller was named the league’s second star for the past week, joining Evegni Malkin (first) and Alex Ovechkin (third) in receiving the weekly honors.
Miller led the NHL with four wins last week, posting a 1.26 goals-against average and .956 save percentage during Buffalo’s four-game winning streak. He made 24 stops in a 7-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning March 19, recorded his career-high sixth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens March 21, stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 triumph at the New York Rangers March 23 and closed the week with 24 saves in a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild March 24. The 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner is 29-18-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 56 appearances.