By Brett Huston
Philadelphia (37-22-10) at Buffalo (34-28-8), 7:30 p.m. EDT
BUFFALO, New York (AP) -- The Philadelphia Flyers' grip on
home-ice advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference
playoffs is loosening, but even with three losses in four games
a spot in the postseason seems fairly secure.
The Buffalo Sabres' chances of cracking the top eight, on the
other hand, are getting worse by the day.
Two teams in need of points will face off Friday night at HSBC
Arena as the Flyers look to complete a four-game season sweep of
the fading Sabres.
Philadelphia has been entrenched in fourth place in the East for
most of the past two months, but that position is being
challenged by surging Pittsburgh. The cross-state rivals are
tied for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the
conference with 84 points, though the Flyers have three games in
They had an excellent chance to pick up two points in their
latest game, leading Stanley Cup champion Detroit 2-0 late in
the second period on the road Tuesday night. The Red Wings,
though, scored a goal shortly before the end of the second and
added two in the third to win 3-2, handing Philadelphia its
third loss in four games.
"We've got some work to do to catch up with them," coach John
The Sabres, meanwhile, have some work to do to catch Carolina
for eighth place in the East. They trail the Hurricanes by five
points for the final spot - with two games in hand - and also
need to pass ninth-place Florida.
Buffalo has lost four of five, including a 5-2 loss to the
Flyers on March 10. The other three losses have been against
non-playoff teams, the latest 4-2 at Ottawa on Tuesday after the
Sabres led 2-0 after one period.
Buffalo had 13 shots in the game - seven after the second period
- a performance that left coach Lindy Ruff fuming.
"I'm very embarrassed. Embarrassed for our fans, embarrassed for
how we played the last forty minutes," Ruff said. "It's not
acceptable this time of year."
The Sabres' play against Philadelphia thus far this season
hasn't made Ruff feel any better. Buffalo has lost its three
meetings with the Flyers by three goals apiece, allowing 14
Philadelphia scores 3.14 goals per game to rank third in the
East, but it's only scored eight goals in losing three of four.
The Flyers haven't gotten a goal from Jeff Carter -- third in
the league with 38 -- in those four games, and Carter has only
scored in one of Philadelphia's last 10 games.
That one game came last week when Buffalo visited the Wachovia
Center, as Carter netted two goals against the Sabres for the
second time this season. Scott Hartnell also scored twice in the
Flyers' 5-2 win.
Philadelphia has an NHL-best six 20-goal scorers, but Buffalo
gets much of its scoring from two players - Thomas Vanek and
Derek Roy. The two have combined for 59 goals, but they've only
totaled three in the team's last six games.
They've combined for one goal against the Flyers this season.
They'll have a hard time scoring on Philadelphia goaltender
Martin Biron, who only has a 4-3-0 record since Feb. 25 but has
posted a 1.84 goals-against average.
The former Sabre has a 1.67 GAA in the three wins against
Buffalo this season.