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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 24, 2024 7:18 am

Flames, Sabres meet as playoff hopes almost extinguished

Nazem Kadri

Both the host Calgary Flames and the Buffalo Sabres are riding two-game losing skids but also clinging to the faintest of playoff hopes as they meet Sunday night.

The Sabres (33-33-5, 71 points) sit seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, and have been all but done in by their five-game road swing that ends against the Flames. Buffalo opened the trip with a 4-1 loss to the Red Wings and has dropped three of four on the trek.

With only 11 regular-season games remaining, the Sabres need an incredible winning streak to have any hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2011.

“We know we have the ability to be one of the best teams in the NHL when we set our minds to it and play the right way,” forward Alex Tuch said. “We’ve just got to focus on the first five minutes of (Sunday) night’s game and just going out there and making them play our style of game and our style of hockey. Just go out there with a lot of energy and have some fun.”

The Sabres arrive in Calgary after an 8-3 beating at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. It was game in which they held a 2-0 lead late in the first period and 3-2 edge late in the second before surrendering six-unanswered tallies, five in the final frame.

“Going into the third, we’re 3-3, and we made mistakes that we haven’t made in quite some time,” coach Don Granato said.

The Flames (33-31-5, 71 points) return home after a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, which leaves them 12 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights for the second Western Conference wild-card berth with 13 games remaining.

“I thought we played well. We generated enough chances to win,” said defenseman Rasmus Andersson, who snapped a 26-game goal-scoring drought. “We had a few Grade A chances with a few minutes left. We played well enough to win. That was a tough one.”

It might not seem to have been a close game based on the final score, but the Flames held their own until late in the third period when it was a one-goal game. A late Vancouver power-play goal made the difference.

“I thought we fought hard to the end,” center Nazem Kadri said. “There’s a couple of plays that decided the game we’d like back. We fought hard and gave it a good effort. … We played a pretty solid 60 minutes, hit a couple of posts.”

The Flames, who are expected to turn to rookie goalie Dustin Wolf against the Sabres. Calgary was in the playoff mix before the March 8 trade deadline, when it dealt three of its top six defensemen over the course of the season as well as top-line center Elias Lindholm. The Flames have fallen off the pace with only two victories in their past seven games.

To their credit, the Flames have shown a willingness to go down swinging, and expect them to put up a fight against a Sabres team that was in Calgary and able to watch the Flames play a late game on the West Coast.

“It’s an opportunity to put two points in the bank,” Kadri said. “Not the most ideal conditions and scenario, but we’ll be ready to play.”

–Field Level Media

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