The Sabres take the ice Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings in KeyBank Center, starting their final six pre-Christmas games with the sobering reality that they're in last place in the Eastern Conference.
The recent dominance of the top five teams in the Metropolitan Division -- who went 17-1 last week and are 28-7-3 since Dec. 3 -- has essentially rendered Buffalo's wild-card chances moot, as the Sabres are already 11 points behind Washington for the final slot.
The Sabres are, however, only six points behind Boston for third in the Atlantic Division heading into the Bruins' game Monday in Montreal and Buffalo will have three games in hand after that contest is played. Sneaking into a top-3 slot in their division appears to be the Sabres' only chance.
"You have to stay in the process. It's one period at a time, one game at a time," said center Ryan O'Reilly. "It's winning battles, competing more than the other team and that gives you a better chance. It's one win at a time to get back into this. Of course, we want to have a five-game winning streak or more than that. You want to get on a roll but it starts with tomorrow."
Going against the Kings is good idea based on the history books but recent history shows LA is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. Still, the Sabres are 13-1-1 in Buffalo against Los Angeles since the 1992-93 season and have won seven straight since a 4-1 Kings win here on Feb. 21, 2003.
The Sabres have not won as many as five games in a row since March, 2012. There are currently four NHL teams on such a run (Philadelphia-9, Columbus-6, Calgary-6 and Pittsburgh-5). In addition, Washington and Minnesota have both won four straight.
"You look at teams that are on a roll and you win, say, three games overtime or shootout, you're still on a roll," said coach Dan Bylsma. "You come out on the wrong side of those, you end up with two in a row or three in a row and don't extend the streak. That's something we're going to have to do and are looking to do in these six games before the break."
Winger Kyle Okposo sat out practice Monday with the flu, but Bylsma said it was likely that Okposo would be fine for Tuesday's game. That did, however, cost Okposo a second practice with new linemates Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, a switch Bylsma first unveiled Sunday in HarborCenter.