Blue Jackets continue playoff push at skidding Sabres

The Columbus Blue Jackets are still fighting for a playoff berth. The Buffalo Sabres hope to spoil their run.

The teams will meet Sunday in Buffalo, a crucial game for the Blue Jackets as they enter the final week of the regular season.

The Blue Jackets (44-30-4) currently have 92 points, tied with Montreal for the Eastern Conference's second and final playoff berth. Columbus, which beat Montreal on Thursday, has one game in hand on the Canadiens and two more regulation victories in case a tiebreaker is needed.

The Blue Jackets are coming off a 5-2 victory Saturday at Nashville, their fourth win in a row.

"I think we had all four lines going, everyone pulling in the right direction," Columbus forward Matt Duchene said. " 1/8Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky 3/8 was great again. It's tough to find too much wrong with 1/8Saturday's 3/8 win, especially against a really strong team, one of the best teams in the West. I thought we did a lot of good things."

Cam Atkinson scored twice against the Predators, giving him 41 this season to tie the franchise record set by Rick Nash in 2003-04. They are the only two Blue Jackets to reach 40 goals in a season.

"It's a cool accomplishment for sure," Atkinson said, per NHL.com. "There's still some big games left. I'm not done."

Teammate Artemi Panarin had four assists to give him 83 points this season, breaking his own franchise mark of 82 set last season.

"He led the charge," Atkinson said. "We're going to need him to do that. That's what he brings, and it's fun to watch and especially fun to play with when he's making those sorts of plays."

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella put Duchene back on the top line with Atkinson and Panarin during Thursday's game against Montreal. The trio combined for eight points against Nashville.

"They've found some consistency right now," Tortorella said.

The Sabres extended their winless streak to six games with a 5-1 loss Saturday against the host New York Islanders.

Facing an Islanders team looking to clinch a playoff berth in front of a raucous home crowd, the Sabres struggled right from the drop of the puck.

"It started on the opening faceoff," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We don't make a D-to-D pass on the tape, and it comes right back after us. This game wasn't really about X's and O's. It was just about battles. The one-on-one battles, they were heavier.

"They're a bigger team, that's why they're in the playoffs and we're in the position we're in. We couldn't get pins in the defensive zone, we spent way too much time in the defensive zone, and when we had an opportunity to make a play, we didn't make a play."

The lone bright spot for the Sabres was rookie Victor Olofsson scoring his first NHL goal on a power play with 6:32 remaining.

Sabres captain Jack Eichel called the team's recent stretch "embarrassing" but denied the team has quit on Housley.

"We're not quitting on Phil," Eichel said, per NHL.com. "We're not quitting on each other. We're just not bringing it. I mean, that's a hockey team right there that's playing to get into the playoffs. From the first shift, we didn't execute. We weren't hard on the puck. Easy to play against.

"So, this isn't on Phil. This isn't on Phil. This is on us."

--Field Level Media

Copyright 2019 by STATS. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Our Latest Stories