Buffalo failed in its most recent attempt to catch the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have the chance, firsthand, to get it done in their next contest.
The Sabres look to bounce back from their first regulation defeat in two weeks Wednesday night when they host a Rangers team that has earned a point in seven consecutive games.
Buffalo's 4-3 loss at Toronto on Tuesday not only snapped its three-game winning streak but kept the eighth-place Sabres (38-29-9) two points behind seventh-place New York with six games remaining for both teams. The Rangers are two points back of sixth-place Montreal.
While the Sabres own a three-point lead over ninth-place Carolina, they don't want to blow another opportunity to tie the Rangers (41-30-5) and better their playoff position.
While Buffalo is 4-1-1 since March 19, New York is 8-1-1 since losing three in a row Feb. 27-March 3. The Rangers, who have not lost in regulation since falling 5-2 at Anaheim on March 9, won 6-3 at Buffalo to open the season Oct. 9.
However, Rangers coach John Tortorella simply wants his team to focus on themselves and not what else is going on in the standings.
"There's enough there. Doesn't matter what team," Tortorella told the Rangers' official website. "I know everybody is concerned about the standings, but we can only worry about us."
Henrik Lundqvist has done his part to keep the Rangers focused, stopping 77 of 78 shots and posting two shutouts while winning two of the last three games. He made 26 saves in a 1-0 win at Boston on Saturday for his league-leading 11th shutout.
"He's going to have to be like that for us if we're going to continue," Tortorella said. "He has stepped up his play when we needed him."
The Rangers, however, have totaled 11 goals while winning two of three against the Sabres this season. Stepan recorded a hat trick in his NHL debut in the season opener, but has been held without a point in the teams' last two meetings.
Lundqvist has allowed three goals in each game while splitting his two starts against the Sabres this season. He has won two of his last three at Buffalo
Sabres star Ryan Miller could get the chance to bounce back after giving up two more goals Tuesday than he did in his previous three starts combined.
"I had a chance to set the tone on my end and didn't do it," Miller said of his effort at Toronto. "It just kind of went from there."
Miller is 1-1-0 with a 3.55 goals-against average versus New York in 2010-11. He made 29 saves in a 3-2 win at New York in the teams' last meeting March 1.
Thomas Vanek has a goal in each of Buffalo's last two games, but has been held without one the last eight against the Rangers.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every NHL game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.