Is this a must-win game for the Sabres?


Based on how the Buffalo Sabres closed out the 2022-23 season, and the optimistic feelings around a team with so many impressive young players, the club was expected to be in the mix for a playoff spot this season.

Due to a number of factors, that expectation has dwindled significantly. And with just over two weeks left in the 2023-24 season, every game takes on added importance if the Sabres want to keep those hopes alive. They won’t have to run the table, but there isn’t much wiggle room left for regulation losses.

Heading into Wednesday night’s showdown against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m., NHL Power Play on ESPN+), the Sabres are eight points behind the Washington Capitals for the final wild-card spot in the East. If there is some hopeful news here, it is the Sabres’ regulation wins total (28), which is equal to the Caps’ and ahead of most other wild-card contenders.

So, about that whole “running the table” idea: After the Senators game, the Sabres have nine games left. Seven of those contests are against teams currently in playoff spots; the other two are against fellow wild-card bubble clubs, the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings.

In other words, the road back to the postseason will be a difficult one — though not impossible. And having those two potential four-point swing games against Washington will help (provided Buffalo wins, of course).

As we traverse the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to check in on all the playoff races — along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2024 NHL draft lottery.

Note: Playoff chances are via Stathletes.

Jump ahead:
Current playoff matchups
Wednesday’s schedule
Tuesday’s scores
Expanded standings
Race for No. 1 pick

Current playoff matchups

Eastern Conference

A1 Boston Bruins vs. WC1 Tampa Bay Lightning
A2 Florida Panthers vs. A3 Toronto Maple Leafs
M1 New York Rangers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals
M2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. M3 Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference

C1 Dallas Stars vs. WC2 Vegas Golden Knights
C2 Colorado Avalanche vs. C3 Winnipeg Jets
P1 Vancouver Canucks vs. WC1 Nashville Predators
P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings


Wednesday’s games

Note: All times ET. All games not on TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m.
Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 (TNT)


Tuesday’s scoreboard

Boston Bruins 4, Florida Panthers 3
New York Rangers 6, Philadelphia Flyers 5 (OT)
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Carolina Hurricanes 1
Washington Capitals 4, Detroit Red Wings 3 (OT)
New Jersey Devils 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Nashville Predators 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT)
Edmonton Oilers 4, Winnipeg Jets 3 (OT)
Chicago Blackhawks 3, Calgary Flames 1
Montreal Canadiens 2, Colorado Avalanche 1
Arizona Coyotes 6, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
Seattle Kraken 4, Anaheim Ducks 0
Dallas Stars 6, San Jose Sharks 3


Expanded standings

Atlantic Division

bos

Points: 99
Regulation wins: 33
Playoff position: A1
Games left: 9
Points pace: 111
Next game: @ TB (Wednesday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

fla

Points: 97
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: A2
Games left: 10
Points pace: 115
Next game: vs. NYI (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

tor

Points: 89
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: A3
Games left: 11
Points pace: 103
Next game: vs. WSH (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

tb

Points: 85
Regulation wins: 31
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 11
Points pace: 98
Next game: vs. BOS (Wednesday)
Playoff chances: 98.9%
Tragic number: N/A

det

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 90
Next game: @ CAR (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 25.0%
Tragic number: 18

buf

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 83
Next game: vs. OTT (Wednesday)
Playoff chances: 1.9%
Tragic number: 12

mtl

Points: 66
Regulation wins: 17
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 76
Next game: vs. PHI (Thursday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7

ott

Points: 64
Regulation wins: 21
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 12
Points pace: 75
Next game: @ BUF (Wednesday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7


Metropolitan Division

nyr

Points: 100
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: M1
Games left: 10
Points pace: 114
Next game: @ COL (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

car

Points: 97
Regulation wins: 37
Playoff position: M2
Games left: 9
Points pace: 109
Next game: vs. DET (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

phi

Points: 82
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: M3
Games left: 9
Points pace: 92
Next game: @ MTL (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 85.1%
Tragic number: N/A

wsh

Points: 81
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 11
Points pace: 94
Next game: @ TOR (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 66.7%
Tragic number: N/A

nj

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 31
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 9
Points pace: 85
Next game: @ BUF (Friday)
Playoff chances: 8.7%
Tragic number: 13

nyi

Points: 75
Regulation wins: 22
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 87
Next game: @ FLA (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 13.3%
Tragic number: 16

pit

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 83
Next game: vs. CBJ (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0.5%
Tragic number: 13

cbj

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 66
Next game: @ PIT (Thursday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: E


Central Division

dal

Points: 99
Regulation wins: 34
Playoff position: C1
Games left: 9
Points pace: 111
Next game: @ VAN (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

col

Points: 97
Regulation wins: 38
Playoff position: C2
Games left: 10
Points pace: 111
Next game: vs. NYR (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

wpg

Points: 94
Regulation wins: 39
Playoff position: C3
Games left: 10
Points pace: 107
Next game: vs. VGK (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

nsh

Points: 90
Regulation wins: 35
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 10
Points pace: 103
Next game: @ ARI (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.6%
Tragic number: N/A

stl

Points: 80
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 91
Next game: vs. CGY (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 4.3%
Tragic number: 14

min

Points: 77
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 89
Next game: vs. SJ (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 1.7%
Tragic number: 13

ari

Points: 65
Regulation wins: 24
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 74
Next game: vs. NSH (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

chi

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 15
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 54
Next game: @ OTT (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


Pacific Division

van

Points: 98
Regulation wins: 39
Playoff position: P1
Games left: 10
Points pace: 112
Next game: vs. DAL (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

edm

Points: 90
Regulation wins: 33
Playoff position: P2
Games left: 12
Points pace: 105
Next game: vs. LA (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

la

Points: 87
Regulation wins: 32
Playoff position: P3
Games left: 11
Points pace: 101
Next game: @ EDM (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 99.5%
Tragic number: N/A

vgk

Points: 86
Regulation wins: 30
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 10
Points pace: 98
Next game: @ WPG (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 95.0%
Tragic number: N/A

cgy

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 82
Next game: @ STL (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0.1%
Tragic number: 7

sea

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 82
Next game: vs. ANA (Thursday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 7

ana

Points: 52
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 10
Points pace: 59
Next game: @ SEA (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

sj

Points: 40
Regulation wins: 12
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 11
Points pace: 46
Next game: @ MIN (Thursday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

p — clinched Presidents’ Trophy
y — clinched division
x — clinched playoff berth
e — eliminated from playoff contention


Race for the No. 1 pick

The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order of the first round, so the team that finishes in last place is not guaranteed the No. 1 selection. As of 2021, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins the lottery, so only 11 teams are eligible for the draw for the No. 1 pick. Full details on the process can be found here. Sitting No. 1 on the draft board for this summer is Macklin Celebrini, a freshman at Boston University.

sj

Points: 40
Regulation wins: 12

chi

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 15

ana

Points: 52
Regulation wins: 18

cbj

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 18

ott

Points: 64
Regulation wins: 21

ari

Points: 65
Regulation wins: 24

mtl

Points: 66
Regulation wins: 17

sea

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 23

cgy

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 28

pit

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 26

buf

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 28

nyi

Points: 75
Regulation wins: 22

nj

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 31

min

Points: 77
Regulation wins: 27

det

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 25

stl

Points: 80
Regulation wins: 28

* The Penguins’ first-round pick was traded to the Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. However, it is top-10 protected.



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