|04.21.10 at 8:42 pm ET|
With all the face washing that Milan Lucic has been doling out this series, it was about time that one of the Sabres officially dropped the gloves for a traditional hockey fight against the hulking young forward.
It was captain Craig Rivet that did it for the Sabres, getting tangled with Lucic on top of the right circle in Buffalo’s defensive zone. It was not one of the fights that either will write home about but a couple good punches were thrown and sweaters were clutched but no take down was registered as the officials broke it up after the pair had floated the the far side of the zone.
Just like in Game 2, the Sabres would take a 2-0 lead though this time around the second goal game in the second period. Former Bruin Steve Montador lined up a shot from the right point that had eyes through to the net that was helped along by an especially good screen by Paul Gaustad and a deflection off a Bruin defenseman at 6:59.
Boston’s best chance to cut into the lead came when Mark Recchi and Lucic found themselves on a breakaway with only defenseman Toni Lydman in near of them in before Ryan Miller. Recchi skated down the slot and was tripped by Lydman but was still able to get the puck on net while sliding down the ice, giving Lucic a chance for the rebound. Miller stood like a brick wall and stopped it all and Lydman was sent to the box.
Boston could not convert anything on the man-advantage and are 0 for 3 on the game on the power play.
After initially outshooting Boston seven to three after 10 minutes in the period, Boston came back to tie the game again at 16 shots apiece heading into the third.
|04.21.10 at 7:52 pm ET|
Well, it did not take too long for Cody McCormick to make his presence felt in this series.
Tim Kennedy scored 2:12 into the game to make it the fourth straight contest in which the Sabres have scored the first goal. The strike came on a broken play after a Johnny Boychuk ht behind Tuukka Rask’s net knocked the puck loose which touched Tyler Ennis on its way to bouncing loose and free in the slot where Kennedy rushed in for a quick one-timer that Rask had no chance at for the 1-0 lead. McCormick was in on the play and got the secondary assist in his first shift of the playoffs for the Sabres.
The Bruins got the first power play of the game at 12:33 after Vladimir Sobotka leveled a big hit on Tim Kennedy on the half wall to the left of Rask that Kennedy did not take kindly to. Kennedy got in Sobotka’s face and delivered a horizontal stick to the center’s mouth that the officials did not think was all that friendly and Kennedy went for the two-minute timeout at 12:33.
Boston battled itself through much of the first period, losing face offs and battles for the puck and the man-advantage was no different as the set plays could not lead to shots that got through traffic to Ryan Miller and were cleared numerous times to help the Sabres kill.
The second Boston power play of the night was not efficient either after Andrej Sekera made a two-line back pass turnover through the neutral zone that Blake Wheeler tracked down on a mini break down the left wing, closing in on Miller. Buffalo’s Craig Rivet had no choice but to hold Wheeler and went to the box for his indiscretion.
Milan Lucic negated the last 24-second of that power play when he smushed defenseman Henrik Tallinder into the boards at 16:51 which would in turn lead to the Sabres first man-advantage of the night. With each team’s penalty killing units (or corresponding ineffective power plays), the Bruins killed it.
The man-advantages stopped the momentum from completely shifting in favor of the Sabres in the first and ultimately led to an equal distribution of shots in the contest as the teams are tied at eight heading into the second period.
|04.21.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
One day after Marc Savard passed a neuro-psych evaluation and was cleared to practice with the Bruins, coach Claude Julien addressed the media Wednesday morning and tempered any enthusiasm about the center returning for the Sabres series.
“I don’t really have the answers on how far away,” Julien said. “He has been out for six weeks. He hasn’t been able to exercise or do anything. When you bring a guy back in the playoffs you have to make sure, for his sake number one, that he’s ready to jump in, and he has got to be in shape to keep up with that pace. The other part is that passing that test that he can start skating and doing different things but he still has to go through different kinds of tests. He hasn’t taken any contact yet. You know, for me to stand here and predict that he will be back at this stage would be unrealistic.”
|04.21.10 at 2:09 pm ET|
Injured Sabres forward Thomas Vanek participated in Buffalo’s morning skate prior to Game 4 against the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Vanek was injured in Game 2 at HSBC Arena after taking a slash to his right knee from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk and sliding into the end boards. He has been seen wearing a boot on his left leg, and coach Lindy Ruff has not given any significant updates on his leading scorer’s status or availability. Vanek told reporters Tuesday that he would try to play in Game 4 and Ruff said on Wednesday that he would be a game-time decision.
“That will be a game-time decision on whether he plays. We're just trying to get him a little extra ice time to see what he looks like,” Ruff said.
Vanek was not available to the media but was overheard talking to an assistant coach on the bench saying “I just don’t want to do anything to make it worse” shortly after the Sabres’ workout had ended.
Ruff also said that forward Matt Ellis would not play on Wednesday after suffering a broken nose and just generally being banged up after a second-period Boychuk hit in Game 3. Cody McCormick was recalled from AHL Portland and will skate in Game 4.
“Because he is playing very well. He is a guy that has played 16-20 minutes a game down there [Portland],” Ruff said. “He is a big body that can get to the front of the net. I think he can win battles down low. Without [Jochen] Hecht, without Vanek, without some bigger bodies, some of the battles have gone the other way and I think a big guy that will be able to win some battles will be important for us. He is thought very highly of by Portland, and if we can get 16-17 minutes out of him, I think he will be able to bring us a lot tonight.”
That would be a lot of minutes considering that Ellis averaged 10:13 in Game 1 and 2 before Boychuk’s hit limited him to sporadic minutes for the rest of Game 3. McCormick is a veteran of 190 NHL games, all with Colorado from 2003-09, and signed with the Sabres last summer and spent the entire season with the Pirates. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists with Portland and a team-high 168 penalty minutes. For his NHL career, the forward has 30 points and 250 penalty minutes.
It will be interesting to see exactly what type of role Ruff has McCormick play Wednesday evening, either as an agitator to get under the Bruins’ collective skin or more as a forward to win battles in front of the net.
|04.21.10 at 12:26 pm ET|
The Bruins had an optional morning skate at TD Garden on Wednesday before Game 4, with 10 players participating, including goalie Tim Thomas. Dennis Wideman and non-regular players including Brad Marchand and Andrew Bodnarchuk got some ice time in.
“It always helps when your ‘D’ blocks shots and makes it easy for you. It has been like that all year,” Rask said. “It is intense, great atmosphere, tight games. It has been pretty much what we have expected. It is just hockey, you don’t want to think about it too much … It is the same [as the AHL playoffs] but different players and a different level. It’s louder but still at the end of the day it is the same game, not too much difference.”
Rask has kept his cool and calm demeanor on and off the ice through the first three games of the series. He has not changed and is not planning to change. When asked if he has played to his own expectations Rask’s answer was smooth and steady.
“You know, I don’t think I have played a great game. I have played on my level and you know, so far it has helped us to win a couple of games but the guys have done a great job in front of me, leaving me so I do not have to play that great game. I just try to save every puck and if that means to play a great game, so be it. But I don’t want to give up those easy goals, you know,” Rask said.
– Coach Claude Julien touched on the power play deficiencies of each team heading into Game 4. So far the Sabres are 0 for 12 while the Bruins are 1 for 6, with the lone goal coming courtesy of Mark Recchi in Boston’s Game 1 loss at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Julien said it is a matter of making adjustments between games, especially in a long playoff series against a divisional foe that the Bruins have seen nine times so far this season.
They had some power play opportunities, obviously more than us, but you know, both teams have done a great job on the penalty kill. What happens in [the] playoffs too is we forget that you're playing the same team night after night, so you're seeing their tendencies and then you're making adjustments,” Julien said. “We saw that last year, when we were in the playoffs, that it's harder for power plays to have the success that they've had during the regular season because they play one team one night. They play another the next night. Every team has a chance to adjust. You have days in between games and they look at the video and make those adjustments, so it's not as easy as it is watching and you just make the best you can out of it, and that's why you're starting to see teams shoot a lot more when they have those opportunities.”
– Speaking of Recchi, his contract is up at the end of the season and the 42-year-old forward has said repeatedly this season that he has not made a decision about retiring though he is probably leaning towards playing next year. He said that he and general manager Peter Chiarelli have not talked about a contract yet but that the he is open to staying in Boston.
“It has been a good spot for me here, so, yeah,” Recchi said.
Recchi is playing out a $1 million, one-year contract he signed with the team last summer and said that at this point in his career, where he has made close to $50 million in player contracts alone, money is not an issue. He is looking for a good spot to play that will give him playoff opportunities going forward.
– Injured defenseman Dennis Seidenberg began working out on Monday after getting clearance from doctors after severing a tendon in his arm. Seidenberg could not work out before that because of the risk of infection after the surgery. He said he is doing some strength and cardio work but, anything he can do that does not involve the injured arm. Seidenberg, who has a short cast on his arm, said that he will be in the cast for another for two weeks and then a splint for two weeks before starting physical therapy on the forearm. He said his range of movement in the wrist is “about 10 percent” and that would have to significantly improve before he came back.
At this point Seidenberg would be available if the Bruins make the Stanley Cup Finals that would start around the end of May. If that were to happen, Seidenberg joked that he would end up on the bench because the team would have already done so much without him.
“When they get to the Finals without me, I doubt they would play me,” Seidenberg said.
|04.20.10 at 2:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Sabres took to the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday looking for a bit of a rebound day after taking two consecutive tough losses to the Bruins in their quarterfinal Stanley Cup playoff series. Boston leads 2 to 1 heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 and the Sabres know that they need to start finishing chances, either on the power play or in front of the net, if the can hold the Bruins off and return to Buffalo for Game 5 with the series tied.
“It is not a must win, no. It is a must play well though. Must compete hard and must play hard,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
All registered healthy Sabres took part in Tuesday’s practice with the notable exception of Matt Ellis, who took a hit from the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk in the second period of Game 3 that busted the forwards nose and sent him wobbling to the bench. Ruff said he gave Ellis a maintenance day on Tuesday and is pretty sure that the wing will be able to play in Game 4 but if he is not the Sabres would have to call a player up from AHL Portland.
“It is playoff hockey,” forward Matt Ellis said. “Obviously things have been pretty tight and there are things at the end of each night where you take a look at and reevaluate. We did that today and will be ready to go tomorrow.”
Part of Buffalo’s woes have been the inability to finish, the great oxymoron in this series as those issues have typically been associated with the Bruins throughout the year. Ruff was asked about how Paul Gaustad (12 goals, 10 assists through regular season, minus-two and four penalty minutes in the playoffs) has been in creating screens in front of the net, a place where Buffalo will have to look to score goals without their top threat Thomas Vanek.
“One area where we must remain strong is try to hold the front. Try to hold that area and try to get those second opportunities and that is where he has to use his big body,” Ruff said. ”To be honest, no. I think he can play bigger, he can be stronger and I think that if you asked him he would say the same thing.”
But with no goals through 12 power play chances and only six goals through three games, Ruff knows that everybody on the team will have to step up. No single player is immune from criticism as long as the Sabres trail Boston in the series.
“I think any time you are down in a series, it applies to everybody,” Ruff said. “Don’t finish the game and wish you did something.”
– Ruff said there is no update on Vanek and at this point he will probably keep mum until Vanek shows up on the ice and he is forced to answer questions on the forwards health. He was seen in a walking boot in Wilmington and said that he has not given up on playing in Game 4. Jochen Hecht, who had finger surgery late in the season, did not skate either and was seen leaving Ristuccia with a cast on his hand.
On the Bruins end of things, the team seems loose and know that they are playing within Julien’s system and that if they compete the results will take care of themselves. All normal skaters participated in the practice and forward Marc Savard was worked out by trainer John Whitesides before the team workout.
Here is the Sabres practice participation by sweater color:
White: Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Tim Connolly
Red: Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Tim Kennedy
Grey: Paul Gaustad, Michael Grier, Raffi Torres
Yellow: Patrick Kaleta, Adam Mair, Chris Butler
Defensemen: Steve Montador, Toni Lydman, Tyler Myers, Henrik Tallinder, Andrej Sekera, Craig Rivet
Goaltenders: Patrick Lalime, Ryan Miller
|04.20.10 at 2:31 pm ET|
Bruins forward Mark Recchi, one of the heroes of Monday night’s Game 3 victory over the Sabres, joined the Dale & Holley show Tuesday afternoon. Recchi said teammate Marc Savard has been skating longer than the two days that the media found out about this week, and he’s hopeful Savard will return to action soon.
“He actually texted me last week and told me he was actually sneaking on the ice, so I knew it,” Recchi said. “He swore my secrecy, so I wasn’t allowed to to say it. I didn’t even tell any of my teammates. So, I knew he was getting eager and feeling good. It’s great to see him out there. He’s had a couple of hard days of practice [on his own]. I don’t think he likes being out there by himself right now, but hopefully we’ll see him in practice here soon and get him back in the lineup.”
Asked if he thought Savard might return by the end of the Sabres series, Recchi said: “I’m not sure. We’re the last guys to hear when he’s going to play. Like I said, he’s been practicing before us, and he hasn’t been there after. I’m not really sure. The longer it goes, obviously the chances get better, because he is feeling good and he is skating. By the end of this week he’ll have a full week of skating in. So, who knows? … Obviously, it’s going to come down the coach as well, if things are going well, when do you put him in, when’s the right time to do it? Obviously, he’s a tremendous player, and it would be a big boost getting him back.”
As for his own future, Recchi said he feels like he still has some hockey left in his 42-year-old body. “I still love the game, I still love the practice, I still love everything about it, and being in the dressing room with the guys,” Recchi said. “So, at the end of the season I’ll sit down. Obviously, I think I can still play and still help. It’s just a matter of figuring out everything at the end of the year and figuring out what’s best for me and my family.”
Recchi was asked about rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has developed into a young star. Said Recchi: ”He’s right there with all them. This kid is a world-class goalie. His composure for a 22, 23-year-old is incredible. … He made the big saves all year when we needed them, and he continues to do it.”
Recchi said Rask does not get taken out of his game even when he allows a goal. “It doesn’t faze him one bit,” Recchi said. “He’s a very, very competitive kid. He knows, he gets upset at himself, but he’s able to put it aside. … Game 2 in Buffalo, he battled like a bugger. You don’t see it too often, but you could see he was fighting it a little bit, he was fighting the puck. But when a goalie competes as hard as he does and fights it and battles it and is able to make the big saves really when you don’t feel great is a great sign for a young goalie. He came out and we had a great win. And then he was awesome again [Monday] night.”
Recchi reflected on the Bruins’ revenge game against the Penguins March 18 when the fans booed the B’s off the ice. “We were kind of disappointed in the way we played because we came out of that seven-game trip just before that playing great hockey and we really seemed to get more consistent,” Recchi said. “We found a way to be a tougher team to play against every night and a team that is committed to being better. That’s why we went on that good stretch — 8-3-1 in our last 12 games or whatever — to get ourselves in a good position for the playoffs.”
To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.