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Apr 6, 2024 4:32 pm

Red Wings, Sabres both fighting to keep playoff hopes alive

detroit red wings

It’s been a turtle race for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Several teams remain in the mix, some with better odds than others to grab it.

Two of those teams looking to stay in the wild-card race go head-to-head when the Detroit Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

The Red Wings (37-31-8, 82 points) enter Saturday night’s action one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-30-11, 83 points), who currently hold the second wild-card spot following a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon.

Philadelphia has the same record and point total as Pittsburgh, but the Penguins own the tiebreaker. The Flyers were set to face the Columbus Blue Jackets later Saturday.

Detroit is coming off a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday but stayed in wild-card contention thanks to losses by Philadelphia and the Washington Capitals.

“Everyone was up against it (Friday) with the competition and who they were playing,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “We did get some help around the league, but we got to take care of it ourselves.”

The Red Wings were in prime position until they went 1-3-2 over their past six games, a stretch that began with a loss to the Nashville Predators on March 23, the last time Detroit held a wild-card spot.

“There’s a lot at stake, and it’s the little details that count,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been a part of games like that, and it’s what we ask for.”

Larkin scored against the Rangers to reach 30 goals for the third straight season. He shares the team lead with 61 points and has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past seven games.

The Sabres (37-35-5, 79 points) kept their very slim playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 win against the Flyers on Friday, pulling them within four points of the second wild-card spot. Buffalo has won four of its past six games, with three of those victories coming against teams battling for that final postseason berth in the East.

“We’re a team that never gives up,” Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said. “We don’t listen to the outside noise. We’re a strong core in here, and we will look at the result once the last game has been played. All we can do is just play our best hockey every game.”

Buffalo finds itself in a familiar spot. Back on March 16, the Sabres faced the Red Wings with a chance to climb within a point of a playoff spot, but they dropped that contest 4-1.

Sunday’s tilt is the first game of a brief two-game road trip for Buffalo, which will play four of its final five games of the regular season as the visitor.

Dahlin was given the day off on Saturday and did not practice, but Sabres coach Don Granato said he is expected to be good to go against Detroit. Dahlin briefly left Friday’s game, but he returned to score his 19th goal of the season.

Dahlin joined Phil Housley as the only defensemen in team history to score at least 19 goals in a season.

“I mean, it’s Rasmus Dahlin,” Granato said. “So, he does a lot for us, obviously. And those are big situations. Obviously, he left for a moment, comes back and steps up. So, he’s an inspiring guy.”

–Field Level Media

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