Looking to continue their push for a playoff spot, the Buffalo Sabres will try to build off a big win when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
The Sabres arrive in Philadelphia fresh off a 3-2 overtime win against the visiting New York Rangers on Friday, when Buffalo goalie Devon Levi made 31 saves in his NHL debut.
The victory moved Buffalo (36-31-7, 79 points) within five points of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, currently held by the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-28-10, 84 points). The Sabres have one game in hand.
“We need the win, and I spoke to our guys about that before the game,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said after the victory. “This is playoff time for us. We need to scrap and battle and find a way to win. We had to find a way to win tonight with a good save to finish and a good play to finish. … We had to stay on the hunt. Credit to our guys to dial in.”
Buffalo is 3-0-1 in its past four games after going 0-3-1 in its previous four.
The Sabres got a boost with the return of defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who missed eight games with an upper-body injury, and forward Jordan Greenway, who scored in his return from a four-game absence caused by an upper-body injury.
Samuelsson lined up in his usual spot on the top pair with Rasmus Dahlin.
“Obviously having him back there is big,” forward Jeff Skinner said of Samuelsson. “He’s a huge steadying force for us back there, but I thought all six (defensemen) were great for us.”
Buffalo’s Tage Thompson missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. The forward, who leads the Sabres with 44 goals and 89 points, has not skated with the team since a win against the New York Islanders on March 25. He was deemed a game-time decision against the Rangers.
“There is (a chance he could play Saturday),” Granato said. “I would say slight because it’s back-to-back because what he has can resolve to the point where he’s pain-free at any moment. We’ll see. We’ll hope that’s the case.”
The Flyers enter the contest eyeing a new winning streak after a four-game run was snapped with a 5-4 overtime road loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Philadelphia rallied to force overtime, having trailed 4-1 in the third period.
“The fact that we were able to get a point shows good resiliency just to stay in it and not to let it get out of hand after it got to 4-1,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said after the game.
Despite the setback, Philadelphia enjoyed a solid stretch in the latter half of March, going 5-0-2 in the past seven games — a run that began with a 5-2 win against the Sabres on March 17.
The penalty kill has been strong for Philadelphia of late, holding off the opposition on 15 of the past 17 opportunities. And while the Flyers have struggled all season on the power play, there was a bright spot against Ottawa as they scored twice with the man advantage in a game for the first time since Jan. 22.
“We’ve been moving it around good, starting to get more pucks to the net,” DeAngelo said. “It’s been a sore spot all year, so good to get a couple.”
The Flyers have won the two previous meetings with the Sabres this season by a combined 9-2 margin.
–Field Level Media