HORRENDOUS NEWARK AIRPORT* -- The Sabres were dangerously close to the bottom of the NHL's overall standing until the calendar hit February. But now they've completely pulled away from it with their 7-2-2 run in the last 11 games.
After finishing 30th the last two years and drafting Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel at No. 2 overall following each season, the Sabres will need a lot of luck during the April 30 NHL draft lottery if they want a top-3 pick this time.
---The Sabres moved into 22nd overall with last night's win at 79 points, passing both Montreal (78) and Arizona (77) after both of those teams lost.
---The Sabres got into sixth place in the Atlantic Division by passing the Habs -- a team they once trailed by 18 points in December.
--With two games left, the Sabres have 79 points and could thus finish with as many as 83. They could still catch Ottawa (81) and even New Jersey and Colorado (both 82) if those two teams do not get another point.
---The worst the Sabres can finish is 24th. The only teams that can pass them are the Habs and Coyotes. Last night's win means neither Winnipeg nor Vancouver nor Calgary can catch them. Buffalo was already out of range of Columbus, Toronto and Edmonton.
---As of today, the Sabres have just a 5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and getting the No. 1 pick. Their draft position is either going to be 1-2-3, or 7 and higher. They can't draft Nos. 4-5-6.
---If you're following the race for 30th, Toronto and Edmonton are tied with 67 points. The Leafs play Columbus tonight before the Blue Jackets are here Friday. The Oilers host Vancouver tonight in the final game at Rexall Place. (Read this wonderfull Rexall Remembered piece by Hall of Fame writer and friend of the blog Jim Matheson)
The Leafs guarantee a bottom-two finish with a loss tonight and Edmonton has the tiebreaker advantage so Toronto would land 30th -- and get the best Auston Matthews odds -- if the teams finish tied.
(* -- and, no, I do not apologize for the dateline on this post. After multiple years of criss-crossing North America following this team, the contest for worst airport to deal has long been won by the folks in Jersey).