With two games left in the 2018-19 hockey season, it's hard to figure out what Sabres fans will be rooting for more--a win in the final home game or a loss. Then again maybe they'll enjoy a hard-fought game that ends up in a loss and therefore helps solidify a place in the bottom-five of the NHL and better odds of ending up with a top-three pick in the NHL Draft.
It's a predicament that leaves many fans scratching their heads while wondering if they'll ever see a winning season from this team.
Back in November during the 10-game winning streak it seemed as if Buffalo's seven-year playoff drought might finally come to an end. With 37 points in the bag by the end of November, the Sabres needed to snare 60 points in their final 52 games to be in that group fighting for one of the two wild card spots. A record like 27-19-6, which is just two games over the real .500-mark would have gotten them there and though everyone knew, including owner Terry Pegula, that this wasn't a President's Cup caliber team, certainly they could be a 500-team. Right?
It didn't happen. In fact it went south, gaining speed as they barreled towards the bottom of the league. Although they won't finish dead last in the NHL like they did last season (and in three of their last five seasons,) their 14-33-8 record since the streak ended is the worst in the league.
Tonight brings an end to the home portion of the schedule at KeyBank Center, a place where they've played pretty well overall. The Sabres are 20-15-5 on the season and a win tonight will give them their best record at home since 2011-12 when they went 21-12-8. Those 21 wins will also tie them for the most home wins since 2009-10 and it will mark only the fourth time in the last nine seasons that they won 20 or more games at home.
It ain't a lot, but it's something.
Since Pegula bought the team in 2011 the Sabres have finished the home portion of the schedule with a 4-3-1 record and only one regulation win (2017.) Ottawa beat them last season and they were 0-2-0 from 2014-16. The prior three wins came in consecutive seasons, all after regulation, with two wins coming from a Lindy Ruff coached team and the other coming from his in-season successor, Ron Rolston, during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
So what does that mean for fans attending tonight's game?
Well, they will be treated to a party in the plaza with a Labatt Happy Hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. as part of the ADPRO, Fan Appreciation Night. Inside the arena sponsors will be giving away goodies for lucky fans, there will be a 50/50 raffle with a guaranteed jackpot of $40,000 and there is also a Jack Eichel bobblehead giveaway to all those in attendance. In addition, select season-ticket holders will receive a game-worn jersey as part of the Jersey Off My Back promotion and all fans will be able to purchase hotdogs, soft pretzels, popcorn and soda for $3 each, according to the Sabres.
For those on the fence about possibly attending the game tonight against the last place Ottawa Senators, a quick look at StubHub has 300-level tickets starting at just under $17 and some 100-level tickets as low as $34.
The big question for those Sabres fans is, "will it be worth it?"
According to reports from the rink, this is the possible lineup for tonight's matchup:
Rookie winger Alexander Nylander was not on the ice with the Sabres saying he's out with a lower-body injury. He's said to be day-to-day after getting stitches for a cut on the back of his leg.