|Vanek to be game-time decision||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.
|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
|B’s complete comeback to claim Game 2, tie series||04.17.10 at 3:58 pm ET|
Summary — Boston turned the series around on Saturday with a 5-3 comeback win over the Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. The Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the first period before tying the game in the second and netting three in the third. Rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask earned his first career playoff win with 26 saves. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 30 Boston shots to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three in the third period after entering the frame down a goal. They tied the game on Michael Ryder’s second goal of the game on an odd-man rush when Blake Wheeler sent the puck across the ice in front of the crease and Ryder was able to control of it and put it high into the net. The game-winner came courtesy of Zdeno Chara with a wrist shot from the point that got by Miller with an effective screen from center David Krejci.
Buffalo took an early lead for the second straight game when rookie defenseman Tyler Myers took a blast from the point that went off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin at 2:55 in the first period. It was the rookie’s first career playoff goal. Buffalo would make it a two-goal advantage later in the period when Matt Ellis charged down the right wing and flipped a backhand shot on Rask that the netminder took a bad angle on and it beat him far side of the post at 12:00.
Boston bounced back in the second period.
The Bruins cut the lead in half at 2:35 when Vladimir Sobotka took a screaming slap shot from the high slot that hit Miller in the chest and bounced straight up in the air, over his shoulder. Ryder went crashing the net and stuck his stick in the crease to finish it off for his first goal of the playoffs. Boston’s second goal came courtesy of the captain, Chara. Johnny Boychuk hit a slap shot from the right point that center Patrice Bergeron deflected straight to the one-timing stick of Chara in the circle to tie the game at 9:54.
Buffalo reclaimed the lead late in the period when Milan Lucic turned the puck over by his own end wall. Tyler Ennis found the loose rubber and flipped it back in front to Jason Pominville who put it passed Rask at 16:41.
Mark Recchi scored an empty-net goal with 19.4 seconds left for the Bruins’ fifth goal to seal the game.
Sabres forward Thomas Vanek left the game in the first period with a lower body injury after a hooking call on Boychuk, whose stick hit Vanek’s knee. He did not return.
Zdeno Chara — The captain kept bringing his team back with two goals and physical play to hold down the Sabres.
Michael Ryder — The forward scored two goals for the second time in three games (two against Washington in the regular-season finale).
Blake Wheeler — He helped set up both of Ryder’s goals with effective passing and heads-up play.
Turning Point — The Bruins did not have a good third period after a dominating second in Game 1. It was a different story in Game 2 as Boston had a two-goal burst early in the period to take its first lead of the series. The game-tying goal came on a 4-on-2 rush when Wheeler sent the puck back across the ice in front of the crease and it went through defenseman Andrew Ference to the stick of Ryder, who flipped it high into the net as Miller was out of position on the other side of the crease.
Key Play — With Boston holding on to its one-goal lead, its goaltender came up huge down the stretch to seal the series-tying victory. Buffalo forward Michael Grier had a point-blank attempt on Rask midway through the third but could not complete the finish as Rask came out of the crease and aggressively knocked the shot to the corner to end the threat and preserve the lead.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 2||at 2:00 pm ET|
Take a bow, Tyler Myers.
The 20-year- old, 6-foot, 8-inch Buffalo defenseman is in the midst of his coming out party. As the second tallest man in the NHL (behind Zdeno Chara, of course), it is hard to miss the lanky blue liner but it Boston hockey fans had not noticed him in the six regular season games the Bruins and Sabres played, they sure will now.
Myers got the Buffalo on the board early with a bomb from the blue line that deflected off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin just enough to redirect it through the crease and a diving Tuukka Rask. It was the rookie’s first ever postseason goal and the second time this series that the Sabres have taken a goal lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Buffalo had momentum all period as the Bruins could not keep themselves out of the penalty box. Vladimir Sobotka took the first when crashing the net at 6:56 for goaltender interference. Buffalo gave Boston the man-advantage as Derek Roy was guilty of holding the stick at 9:04 but Boston could not take the opportunity as David Krejci gave it right back with a high-sticking call at 9:25.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was the next to the box when he was called for hooking at 13:39 when he hacked at Thomas Vanek’s knee. Vanek lost his edge and slid into the end wall. He was hurt on the play and had trouble hobbling back to the bench and down the tunnel.
Matt Ellis made it a two-goal game for the Sabres at 12:00 when he threw a backhand at Rask the flew to the far side, off the post into the net.
That is how it stands heading into the second period, 2-0 Buffalo.