BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres lost their fourth game in a row, 7-3 against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, falling further out of contention for a playoff spot. As the longest postseason drought in NHL history extends into its 12th spring, the Sabres can lament their elusive home-ice advantage.

On a five-game home skid in which Buffalo has been out-scored 31-10, the Sabres dropped to 13-20-3 at KeyBank Center. Earning 29 standings points in 36 games, with five home dates remaining, the Sabres are locked into finishing with a home points percentage below .500 for the ninth time in 52 seasons.

This could, however, be the first time that happens during a year in which the Sabres finish with an overall winning record. Buffalo (33-31-6) might be sliding toward a losing season, but could benefit from playing seven of its remaining 12 games on the road, where it has tallied points at a playoff-caliber pace.

The Sabres’ current road record (20-11-3) equates to a .632 point percentage, which would rank fourth in team history, behind the 1974-75 team that went to the Stanley Cup finals, and the teams that reached consecutive Eastern Conference finals in ’05-06 and ’06-07. Every season that Buffalo has boasted point percentage of .550 or better on the road before this one has to the playoffs the playoffs. If the Sabres were as good at home as they have been on the road this season, they would be pacing for 104 points and locked in playoff position.

By contrast, of the five seasons in which the Sabres have had a point percentage worse than their current mark at home (.403), four have come during the playoff drought and resulted in last-place finishes in the NHL standings. The other was ’71-72, when Buffalo placed third from the bottom. The Sabres’ home record tracks at a 66-point pace, good for a bottom-five finish in the league this season.

Coach Don Granato and general manager Kevyn Adams have both suggested pressure to perform in front of the home fans for the lack of success. The team is able to play with more freedom on the road without worrying about winning back a fanbase that has drifted away in recent seasons.

Yet, there have been occasions when the KeyBank Center crowd has seemed to lift the Sabres to a higher level — Ryan Miller’s banner night, the return of the retro “goat head” jerseys, the first home games following the devastating blizzard, and emotional Damar Hamlin ordeal.

The lack of an audible home-ice advantage on many nights could be a culprit. Tuesday night’s paid attendance was 13,043 (68% capacity), the lowest figure in the past 16 home games after 10 of the first 20 were below that mark. Buffalo’s average attendance this season is 15,327 (80% capacity), which ranks 31st in the NHL.

And several of the biggest crowds at KeyBank Center this season have been boosted by large numbers of fans rooting for the Leafs, Bruins, Penguins, Rangers and other visiting teams.

Each home loss, Granato has said, provides a lesson for the NHL’s youngest team. True playoff contenders protect home ice. The Sabres are still working to master that maxim.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.