Sword Play: Buffalo Sabres - Pittsburgh Penguins Preview

By Matt Clouden
Timothy T. Ludwig – USA Today Sports

With the Buffalo Sabres eliminated from the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Penguins locked into the top spot in the Eastern Conference, tonight’s game offers little in the implication department.

But where it lacks in one area, it may be chalk-full of story lines elsewhere, at least for Sabres fans.

The most prominent story line is whether or not this will be Ryan Miller’s last start as a Buffalo Sabre. Following his disastrous outing against the New York Rangers on Friday, many have felt that he would not start at home again this season. With only one more game remaining after tonight’s contest, that may turn out to be true.

Miller has had trade rumors swirling around him all season, but they have only intensified since the trade deadline. Beyond Friday, Miller’s play has been generally very good, and many feel his value could be as high as ever. If Jason Pominville got the haul that he did, the former Vezina Trophy winner should get a lot more, including a top-level roster player that can make an immediate difference for the Sabres along with high draft picks and top prospects.

Another story line is exactly how in this game the Penguins will be.

They’re locked in, so in essence they have nothing to play for. This makes a difference only to the Buffalo fans that do not want to see the Sabres ruin their potential draft position any more than they have already.

The last meeting between these two teams led to the Sabres snapping the Pens’ 15-game winning streak. Pittsburgh comes into tonight’s contest with a seven game streak in tow. Can history repeat itself?

While many Sabres fans certainly understand the pride factor, one would have to believe they hope it doesn’t. Right now, the Sabres are in the ninth spot, and if someone behind them in the lottery wins the top spot, they will pick 10th at the lowest. That puts them in a nice position to take one of the better defenseman or wingers in the draft.

A win tonight would put the Sabres in the position to draft 12th in June, and a win against the New York Islanders can potentially land them in the 14th spot. On the flip side, with two more losses and some help from some teams below them, the Sabres could end up picking sixth, with fourth being a long shot.

Something else to keep an eye on is the Minnesota Wild’s fight for the postseason. As it stands right now, the Wild are in the seventh spot in the Western Conference, but the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars have the ability to catch them and push them out of the postseason. If that were to occur, it would likely mean two things for the Sabres. First, they would get two chances at the top pick in the draft, although their chances will increase by less than one percent. Second, they would have either the 13th or 14th pick as well as the, currently, ninth pick.

Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST tonight.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18.

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