Dan Bylsma has said several times he’s uncomfortable with the Sabres’ spot in the standings. He made the playoffs every year while coaching Pittsburgh, so he never knew when the season would end. He knows Buffalo is done in eight days.
Still, he’s not going to change anything with the team going on its last long road trip of the year.
After departing for New York on Friday afternoon, the Sabres will visit the Rangers on Saturday and the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. It’s the last chance for the players and coaches to spend a couple of days together, but bringing home victories trumps making more memories.
“Right now the focus is so singularly focused on winning hockey games,” said Bylsma, whose team is 5-2-2 in the last nine games. “You feel like at the time of the season when you need to win hockey games, we have a positive record. That’s really the focus still for our group. We’re playing a playoff team in the Rangers the next game, and it’s another taste for us to know what playoff hockey is like this time of year.”
The Rangers could clinch a playoff spot Friday night while waiting for the Sabres. If the Boston Bruins lose to St. Louis in regulation and the Detroit Red Wings lose to Minnesota in any fashion, the Rangers’ ticket is punched.
After a pedestrian 6-5-3 record in March, the Rangers are third in the Metropolitan Division with 95 points. They’re one point behind second-place Pittsburgh and two ahead of the Islanders with one more game played.
Bylsma hopes two players join the Sabres when they get back from the trip. Goaltender Jason Kasdorf (groin) practiced fully with the team for the first time Friday. He’ll stay behind to get extra work along with Tyler Ennis (concussion).
The coach said it’s “unlikely” that defenseman Cody Franson (concussion) will play again this season. The Sabres host Columbus next Friday in the home finale and close the year April 9 at the Islanders.
“I’m still hoping that we could have a healthy Tyler Ennis for the last five days,” Bylsma said in First Niagara Center. “Whether that means a game or not, I don’t know, but I’d like to see him. We’re moving in the right direction. Cody’s probably not looking like that’s going to be the case.”