Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The playoff push begins now

Just like last season, the Buffalo Sabres put themselves in a position where they need to get on their horses in January to make the playoffs. They got on a good roll and landed in the #7 slot in the Eastern Conference last year and will need to do it once again.

As we say goodbye to 2011 and an atrocious December (4-7-3,) the playoff push is on as they begin the 2012 portion of the schedule tonight versus Edmonton.

The Sabres sit in 11th place, one point in front of Tampa Bay (12th) and six points behind the 8th place Winnipeg Jets.

Buffalo has 12 games in January with nine on the road with seven road games in a row to finish the month.

Here's a look at the 8th through 12th seeds in the East as the Sabres begin the month of January:
  • Winnipeg--43 pts.
  • Washington--42
  • Toronto--41
  • Buffalo--38
  • Tampa Bay--37
Here are the teams' schedules for the month including games vs. division leaders, playoff teams and non-playoff teams as they stand right now:

Winnipeg (13 games)
  • Division Leaders (3)--Boston, Florida, NY Rangers
  • Playoff Teams (4)--NJ Devils (2,) Ottawa, Philadelphia
  • Non-playoff Teams (6)--Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo (2,) San Jose', Carolina
Washington (12 games)
  • Division Leaders (2)--Boston, LA Kings
  • Playoff Teams (2)--Pittsburgh (2)
  • Non-playoff Teams (8)--Calgary, San Jose', Tampa Bay (2,) Carolina (2,) NY Islanders, Montreal
Toronto (12)
  • Division Leaders (1)--NY Rangers
  • Playoff Teams (5)--Winnipeg, Detroit, Ottawa, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
  • Non-playoff Teams (6)--Tampa Bay, Buffalo (2,) Montreal, NY Islanders (2)
Buffalo (12)
  • Division Leaders (1)--Chicago
  • Playoff Teams (5)--Winnipeg (2,) Detroit, St. Louis, NJ Devils
  • Non-playoff Teams (6)--Edmonton, Carolina, Toronto (2,) NY Islanders, Montreal
Tampa Bay (12)
  • Division Leaders (2)--Vancouver, Boston
  • Playoff Teams (2)--Ottawa, Pittsburgh
  • Non-playoff Teams (8)--Toronto, Montreal, Carolina, Washington (2,) Dallas, Phoenix, Columbus

We'll start by looking at the Southeast Division where Washington and Tampa Bay find themselves outside a playoff spot looking up at Florida.

Both teams have an "easier" schedule this month as both face non-playoff teams eight times. Those would be the two teams who could make a jump in the Eastern Conference.

Winnipeg will have the toughest road as they try to hang on to a tenuous playoff spot. They face three division leaders and four playoff teams.

Buffalo and Toronto will battle each other twice as they jockey for position with the Sabres looking at two games vs. the eight place Winnipeg Jets.

Although the Sabres are in a precarious position, the schedule is favorable for them to hold their ground in the very least. With games against four of the leagues bottom six teams, plus two games each vs. Winnipeg and Toronto, the opportunity is there for them to improve their position heading into the stretch run which begins in earnest next month.

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