2012 NHL Playoffs: Saturday Scoreboard Watching For Sabres Fans

After the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 5-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, the Eastern Conference playoff race has become more muddled than it was in the last couple of days. Here are the current standings:

Eastern Standings

New York Rangers 78 50-21-7 107
Boston Bruins 77 45-28-4 94
Florida Panthers 78 37-25-16 90
Pittsburgh Penguins 78 48-24-6 102
Philadelphia Flyers 77 45-24-8 98
New Jersey Devils 78 44-28-6 94
Ottawa Senators 77 39-28-10 88
Washington Capitals 78 39-31-8 86
Buffalo Sabres 78 38-30-10 86
Winnipeg Jets 78 36-34-8 80
Carolina Hurricanes 78 31-31-16 78
Tampa Bay Lightning 77 35-35-7 77
New York Islanders 77 33-33-11 77
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 33-36-9 75
Montreal Canadiens 78 29-35-14 72

The Sabres sit tied with the Washington Capitals for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Conference. The Sabres lose out on the tiebreaker as they have 31 regulation/overtime wins (ROW) compared to the Capitals 36. The Senators sit two points ahead of both teams with 88 points and a game in hand. The Senators have 34 ROW so they would hold a tiebreaker with the Sabres as well if the situation came to it.

All three teams are in action tonight so the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings could look very different at the end of the day.

Follow the jump for the previews.

Ottawa Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers

When: 1:00 pm. Game is televised on NHL Network and CBC.

Effect: If Philadelphia wins, the chances of making the playoffs increase 1.3%. If Ottawa wins, the chances of making the playoffs decrease 1.4%

The Ottawa Senators have not had the greatest success against the Flyers this season, losers of two of three games. But they have gotten points in seven of their last ten games and they did defeat the Flyers in their last meeting on January 8th. Craig Anderson has played against the Flyers three times this season and has 1-0-1 record with a 3.64 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He should be starting in net as Ben Bishop is still out of action with a lower body injury.

At the opposite end of the rink, the Flyers are expecting Sergei Bobrovsky in net as Ilya Bryzgalov is still nursing an injured foot. Bobrovsky defeated the Senators in their only matchup, a 7-2 victory on October 18th. Danny Briere has been fairly successful against the Senators this season, scoring three of the 14 team goals in the three matchups.

Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

When: 7:00 pm. Game is televised on NHL Network in the Buffalo market.

Effect: If Montreal wins, the chances of making the playoffs increase 16.2%. If Washington wins, the chances of making the playoffs decrease 9.6%

The Capitals have had great success against the Canadiens all season, winning all three previous matchups this season. The Canadiens have won only three of their last ten games and they just recently fired their general manager and are looking to rebuild for next season. To make matters worse for Sabres fans, the Canadiens are starting Peter Budaj in net, he of the 3-7-3 record and one 3-0 loss to the Capitals already on February 4th. Montreal is also coming off a 4-1 loss to the Rangers in New York.

The Capitals are expected to start Micheal Neuvirth in net who has a 12-12-5 record this season and earned the victory in the Bruins win on Thursday night. The Capitals have won two of their last five games, but have earned at least a point in four of the last five games. The only game in which they didn't was Tuesday's loss to the Sabres.

If the Sabres win and both the Capitals and Senators lose, the Sabres would be tied with the Senators for 7th place and the Capitals would be two points back in 9th. If the Sabres lose and the Capitals and Senators win, the Sabres are two points back of 8th and four points back of 7th with three games left to play.