Sabres staring down the barrel
|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