Sabres clinch Northeast Division in home finale

Posted on April 6, 2010 by Patrick Moran

Buffalo SabresAfter months of almost exclusively leading the Northeast Division and looking over their shoulders, at least when it comes to the Ottawa Senators the Buffalo Sabres have to look no more.

Tyler Ennis had a goal and two assists and Drew Stafford snapped out of a nasty slump with a goal and assist as the Sabres took care of business in their home finale, a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers.

With the win the Sabres clinched the Northeast Division.  They’ll be playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007 and are guaranteed no lower than a third seed in the playoffs.

It’s their sixth division title in franchise history.

They were rewarded immediately following the game with a monstrous standing ovation from the appreciative sellout HSBC Arena crowd.  The feeling was reciprocated by the team as they staked to center ice to salute the fans.

Ottawa also won Tuesday night at Florida, ensuring them fifth place in the conference and making it impossible for the Sabres to meet them in the first round.  Buffalo will play either the sixth or seventh seed when the playoffs open next week.

Derek Roy, Jochen Hecht and Toni Lydman also scored for Buffalo as they took three of the four meetings between the clubs this year.

The Sabres finished 25-10-6 at home this season.

Stafford scored for the first time since netting a goal back on February 5. He also had a nice set up on Lydman’s goal.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Stafford said about his goal.  “It feels really good finally to be able to contribute on the score sheet to get a win.” Stafford said.  “For me personally it came down to just keep working and keep getting pucks on net.  Hopefully I can build on that and keep going and finish strong.”

But the star of the game was Ennis. He has eight points in seven games since being called up from Portland and will undoubtedly give Lindy Ruff a lot to think about when some of the healthy bodies start to come back on the ice.

Ryan Miller was up to his old tricks, turning back 30 shots to record his 40th victory of the season.  None of the saves he made tonight, or perhaps the entire season were prettier than when he robbed *** in the second period.

Marian Gaborik took a shot to a seemingly open net that Miller seemed out of position on.  Out of nowhere Miller sprawled across the ice to get his stick on the puck and deflect it out of play.  The crowd promptly exploded.

“It’s a great accomplishment for him,” Jason Pominville said regarding Miller’s 40th win.  “He’s been tremendous for us all season. That save he made tonight was amazing…you saw the reaction from the crowd. It gives us that extra energy on the bench as well. He’s an elite goalie and I think everybody is excited for him.”

Buffalo still has some business left before the playoffs begin.  They are in the hunt for second place in the Eastern Conference, trailing New Jersey by a point and leading Pittsburgh by the same with three games remaining. The task will be daunting as they finish with road games in Boston, Ottawa and a season finale at New Jersey that just may decide the second seed.

“Our eyes are on the big prize,” Stafford said. “There’s little steps and this was one of them for now, but we got our eyes on the big prize. Now obviously the next step is to finish on the road song and get ready for next (playoffs) season.”

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