The two lottery-bound teams head into Saturday's game at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena with identical 32-39-10 records. The winner will get sole possession of sixth place. The loser will slightly improve its chances in the draft lottery.
Both franchises are hoping for better seasons ahead. Buffalo seemed destined to finish ahead of Detroit until the past few weeks. The Sabres snapped an eight-game losing streak by downing Ottawa 5-2 on Thursday. The Wings had their season-best six-game winning streak vanquished with a 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh on the same night.
Jason Pominville scored a goal in what may have been his last home game in a Sabres uniform. The 36-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. His tally on Thursday was his 217th with Buffalo, moving him into the top 10 on the all-time franchise list.
"I'm so happy for him, not because he scored, but just the way that line played tonight, they were tenacious, got a couple good looks," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "I know the goal he scored wasn't one of those highlight reels. But just a great guy, great human. It was great to see him contribute."
Pominville appears genuinely uncertain where he will play or if he will continue playing after Saturday.
"I've really enjoyed every moment," he told the team's website. "I don't know what the future holds. But enjoy the next couple of days and hopefully get another win and take a step back and make some decisions, I guess."
Housley was relieved that the team wouldn't finish the season with a long losing streak.
"It's really important for our group," he said. "This game was really important for us. To finish off the right way, not only for the group, but more importantly, for our fans. It's been tough. We wanted to improve our home record. I think that was a big focus coming into the season. We've done a pretty job, not as of late, but it was great to win this game for our fans."
Left wing Matt Puempel scored his first goal in a Red Wings uniform on Thursday and rookie Taro Hirose collected his seventh point in nine games. Otherwise, it was a forgettable performance in Pittsburgh.
"I don't think our best players were as good as they have been," coach Jeff Blashill said. "They've been excellent through this stretch."
The most significant development for the Red Wings this week was the commitment made to Blashill. The front office gave him a two-year extension to continue the rebuilding project.
"I believe our arc is starting to head in the right direction with the development of a number of young players," he said. "I believe we're starting to head in the direction that we all want it to. We got lots of work to do and I look forward to diving into that work so we're sitting here a year from now in a better position than we're sitting here today. I look forward to the work and can't wait to continue it."
Buffalo leads the season series 2-1.
--Field Level Media
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