Despite a revamped lineup due to trades and injuries, the Sabres still have a glimmer of hope and a victory over the Lightning on Sunday night would give them a little more.
Buffalo (17-19-6) entered this lockout-shortened season with high expectations, but instead has been one of the league's biggest disappointments. Longtime coach Lindy Ruff was fired in February after a 6-10-1 start, and the team has retooled its roster over the past month with several trades -- including dealing captain Jason Pominville.
Ending March with four straight losses appeared to end the Sabres' playoff chances, but four wins in six games this month have at least kept them within striking distance. They're tied with New Jersey for 10th in the Eastern Conference, six points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers with six games remaining.
After getting outscored 9-2 in consecutive losses to Winnipeg and Montreal, Buffalo bounced back with a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. Jhonas Enroth stopped 29 shots and Christian Ehrhoff scored 17 seconds into the third period as the Sabres won for the third time in four home games.
"Our competitive nature was way better than it was the other night," coach Ron Rolston told the team's official website. "Intensity-wise we were a lot better."
Rolston's team had little of anything in a 5-1 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday, getting outshot 42-15.
Defenseman Tyler Myers described his team's effort as "probably the most embarrassing game I've been a part of."
That was the last game of the season for Myers, who broke a bone in his leg.
Buffalo likely will need continued excellent goaltending from either Enroth or Ryan Miller with one goal scored in each of the last three games. The power play is providing no help, failing to convert on 20 chances over the past seven contests.
Tampa Bay (17-21-3) is all but assured of missing the playoffs for a second straight season, sitting nine points back of the East's final spot.
Although the Lightning erased a four-goal deficit Saturday at Washington, the result was their fourth loss in five games, 6-5 in overtime. Richard Panik and Martin St. Louis each scored twice for Tampa Bay, which surrendered six goals for the second straight game.
"With the situation we're in, and the playoffs far away, we could have packed it in," said forward Teddy Purcell, who had a goal and an assist. "But it just goes to show that we've got a lot character and fight in here and even though there's only seven or eight games left, we're trying to build and get better for next year."
Ben Bishop was lifted after allowing three first-period goals on 20 shots. Since shutting out Carolina in his Lightning debut April 4, Bishop is 1-4-0 with a 3.95 goals-against average in five starts.
These teams have split two meetings this season -- both 2-1 decisions in Tampa Bay.