As the weather begins to warm and winter turns to spring, so begins the season when teams in the National Hockey League are fighting for their playoff lives. Look at the Carolina Hurricanes, for example, who enter their game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday four points out of a wild-card berth.
The Hurricanes are desperate to make up those four points, and the Sabres expect them to play that way on Saturday.
"Without a question," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "They're fighting for their playoff lives with every game and I think it shows. They have an exuberant youth to their lineup, they work and have speed and it's something we've got to be ready for when they drop the puck tonight."
Carolina traded Eric Stall, their captain and second-leading scorer all-time, to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28. But that hasn't stopped them from staying in the mix in the Eastern Conference with points in their last four games (3-0-1).
The Sabres aren’t without motivation either. Four of their next five games – two against Carolina and one each against Montreal and Ottawa – are against teams that are ahead of them in the standings by 10 points or less. The Sabres have made it their goal to catch those teams over the next four weeks.
"We have a number of games until the end of the season that are like this," Bylsma said. "They're teams that we feel like we should and need to catch with these games and with these 13 remaining games. We want to put teams behind us, we want to catch and put them behind us."
Chad Johnson will start in net for the Sabres. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV, with Rick Jeanerette and Rob Ray calling the game along with special guests from the 200 level.
The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
9 Evander Kane – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 19 Cal O'Reilly – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
43 Daniel Catenacci – 17 David Legwand – 26 Matt Moulson
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 3 Mark Pysyk
31 Chad Johnson
40 Robin Lehner