The Detroit Red Wings would love nothing more than to secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot -- and they'll have a great chance to move ever closer to that goal as they face the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
The Red Wings are coming off a 5-3 loss to Montreal and are clinging to the first wild-card slot, one point up on eighth-place Columbus. The Sabres have already clinched the worst record in the NHL and have dropped three straight games.
Detroit may be on the verge of reaching the postseason in its first year in the restructured East, but Saturday's loss to the host Canadiens proves the Red Wings still have plenty of work to do. They fell behind 3-0 through two periods, then staged a game-tying rally only to see Montreal pull ahead for good with 6:47 remaining. They'll look to sharpen their game against a Sabres team that is averaging just 1.8 goals per game - easily the lowest rate in the league.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSD (Detroit), MSG (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (37-27-14): Detroit is used to being one of the first teams to reach the Stanley Cup tournament - as has been a franchise tradition since the 1990s - and the players aren't comfortable with dragging out the process.
"The job is not done," forward Justin Abdelkader said Monday. "We don't want to be waiting until the last game and hoping teams are losing. That's not a fun position to be in. We have to take care of it ourselves as best we can."
ABOUT THE SABRES (21-48-9): Buffalo fans can take heart: the nightmare is almost over. The Sabres will finish with the league's worst record for the first time in 27 years, and needs eight goals over their final four games to avoid setting an NHL record for the fewest goals in a season in the expansion era.
Coach Ted Nolan told the Buffalo News it isn't about results the rest of the way: "We want to see who wants to compete and who wants to be a big part of this team going forward."
1. Detroit has won the last seven meetings, holding the Sabres to just nine goals in that span.
2. At 23 years, the Red Wings have the longest active playoff streak in North American sports.
3. The Sabres have scored at least one man-advantage goal in each of their last four games.