BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Don Granato is now the winningest successor to the winningest coach in Sabres history. Passing the 10th anniversary of Lindy Ruff’s firing this week, Granato has spent the equivalent of two full seasons behind the Buffalo bench, compiling a 69-77-18 record in 164 games.
That’s more victories than each of the first five coaches that followed Ruff: Ron Rolston (19-26-6), Ted Nolan (40-87-17), Dan Bylsma (68-73-23), Phil Housley (58-84-22), and Ralph Krueger (36-49-12).
Dan Bylsma coaxed a bit better point percentage (.485) out of his 164 games. But Granato (.476) is rising. Entering the final third of the season, the Sabres are on pace for more than 90 points, their best total since Ruff was coach. That would get Granato close to .500, and could potentially end the NHL’s longest postseason drought in history at 11 years.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against Atlantic Division rival Toronto at KeyBank Center — the Sabres’ only home game this season against the Leafs — Buffalo (28-22-4) has 60 points, four points behind Florida for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, but with six games in hand. Buffalo’s point percentage (.556) is eighth in the conference. Hockey Reference gives the Sabres a 40% chance of making the playoffs, while MoneyPuck puts the probability at 45%.
The Sabres have not had a winning record in late February since 2011, when they last made the postseason with 96 points.
Buffalo has steadily improved under Granato’s guidance. The Sabres had .375 points percentage in his 28 games as interim coach in 2021, up from .286 in the first 28 games under Krueger. Last year, the Sabres had a .457 points percentage, going 16-9-3 (.625) over the final third of the season.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is expected to start in goal for the Sabres on Tuesday night. Defenseman Kale Clague did not participate in the morning skate due to injury.
This will be the Maple Leafs’ lone visit to Buffalo this season, and first since acquiring former Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly in a trade last week with the Blues. It begins a crucial stretch for the Sabres, who visit Florida and Tampa Bay in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday before hosting another team in the wild-card race, Washington, on Sunday.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.