Sabres-Senators Preview

Some Buffalo Sabres are getting some time off prior to the

postseason. They can rest assured that their first-round opponent

won’t be the Ottawa Senators.

The Sabres will likely sit some of their top players again as

they try to snap a nine-game losing streak against the Senators,

who are playing their season finale Saturday night just hours after

announcing Alex Kovalev will miss the playoffs.

With the Northeast Division title wrapped up, Buffalo (44-26-10)

gave its banged-up players a break in a 3-1 loss to Boston on

Thursday night.

The Sabres are one point behind New Jersey for second place in

the Eastern Conference, but they have decided the extra rest for

the players might be worth more than trying to secure a higher

seed.

“It’s tough. You’re playing with different guys every night,

guys are switching during games,” center Derek Roy said. “We’ve got

to get healthy for the playoffs. We need everybody. We need this

whole team.”

Patrick Lalime played with the flu so No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller

could rest. The Sabres were also without leading scorer Tim

Connolly (foot), No. 4 scorer Thomas Vanek (unspecified injury) and

defenseman Craig Rivet (flu).

Ottawa (44-31-6) was short-handed in its last matchup with

Buffalo, but that didn’t stop it from extending its run in the

series with a 4-2 victory March 26. The Senators were without

Kovalev and Milan Michalek due to injuries as they improved to

25-6-4 against the Sabres since the start of 2005-06.

Kovalev, fourth on the team with 49 points, suffered a torn ACL

in his left knee during a 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on

Thursday.

Ottawa, which will finish in fifth place in the East, will face

Pittsburgh or New Jersey in the first round. Buffalo’s playoff

opponent remains uncertain.

A secured playoff spot has given Ottawa an opportunity to rest

its players.

The Senators, though, continue to play hard, going 7-1-1 in

their last nine. Ottawa trailed 3-0 before losing Thursday

night.

“It was nice to see us battle back in a game that doesn’t mean

anything for us,” captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “We showed some

character.”

The Senators were able to give defenseman Jared Cowen, their

2009 first-round pick, his league debut. With Anton Volchenkov

getting the night off, the 19-year-old Cowen saw nearly 7 minutes

of ice time.

Defenseman Tyler Myers continues to play a crucial role in the

Sabres’ success. Myers, the 12th overall pick in 2008, appears to

be the front-runner for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL rookie

of the year.

“It’s hard not to hear those whispers about the Calder and what

not,” Myers said. “You take it all in, but at the end of the day,

you just have to focus on what you have to do here with the team.

And I think I’ve done that for the most part.”

Myers has 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) to lead all Sabres

defensemen and ranks fifth on the team overall. Myers, though, has

been held without a point in five games against the Senators.