Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Some Lineup Tinkering For Sabres

Buffalo is making some lineup changes for tonight’s Game Three against Philadelphia.

Brad Boyes, who hasn’t been producing much at center, has been demoted to playing wing on the fourth line with Mike Grier and Cody McCormick.  The big issue with Boyes is that he’s been playing on the perimeter, and Lindy Ruff feels this move will spark him to crash the net more.

Rob Niedermayer is moving up to center for Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis, who both have also struggled to produce in the first two games of the series.

On defense, the Buffalo News reports that there is a possibility that Jordan Leopold could return to the lineup tonight.

I thought the Sabres did a good job matching the Flyers intensity in Game Two even though it resulted in too many penalties.  Ruff is more accepting of his players erring on the side of aggression, and with good reason.  Playing a passive game against a physical and talented team like Philly isn’t going to get it done.

Brian Boucher will be in net for Philadelphia tonight.  The Sabres should take a cue from the Flyers and get traffic in front of the opposing goaltender as much as possible.  Try to have those after-the-whistle scrums take place in front of their net instead of yours.

Interestingly, the last time Philly won a playoff series against Buffalo was around the turn of the century with a much younger and less experienced Boucher manning the nets.  We’ll see if they’re able to do it again 11 years later.

The Sabres have talked openly about how excited they are to play in front of their raucous home crowd.  Fans here are pumped and may just blow the roof off the building tonight.  Game time is 7:00 and will be televised on Versus, TSN, and MSG.

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Ruff Is All Revved Up

From WGR-550,

Lindy Ruff wasn’t upset after Game 2 that his team was shorthanded just shy of 16 minutes. His team did kill off 9 of 10 power plays and two 5-on-3’s. Ruff loved the emotion he saw from both teams and he can’t wait to see more of it here in Buffalo on Monday, “I think the emotion in the building will be incredible. The atmosphere has always been incredible. It’s our fans, it’s our energy. I thought we answered the bell yesterday Maybe went a little bit too far, but it’s going to be fun to be in our building.”

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Sabres Will Need To Fight Off Flyers Surge

Greetings from the press box at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Sabres and Flyers are getting ready for Game 2 at 5:00 EST.

Much of the talk here in Philly today about the Flyers game plan, as you’d expect, is revolving around how to solve Ryan Miller.  You’re going to see Philly’s forwards make more of an effort to get in Miller’s face in this game.  The Sabres star netminder will be dealing with a lot of screens and, more than likely, some not so incidental contact in his goal crease. 

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that opponents have resorted to physical tactics with Miller, and it will be interesting to see how Buffalo’s defense responds.

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Miller Proves The Outsiders Right

It seems funny now that a good portion of fans and media in Buffalo were getting a little offended by sentiment coming from the media in Philadelphia, and for that matter outlets across the U.S and Canada, that Ryan Miller was Buffalo’s only chance to win this series.

If last night is any indication, those out-of-towners nailed it harder than a Chris Pronger slap shot.  When his hands aren’t broken, that is.

Forget the odd vote of James van Riemsdyk as #1 star.  Miller was the big story in Buffalo’s Game One 1-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center.

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Talking Sabres-Flyers With Mick Kern

I had the privilege of previewing the Sabres-Flyers series with Mick Kern on “The War Room” show this morning on Sirius XM.  Listen on the player or tune in below to direct download.



Some last minute game notes:  Andrej Sekera is not ready and will sit tonight, along with healthy scratch Mark Mancari.  Mike Grier and Patrick Kaleta will play.  Nik Zherdev and Jody Shelley will be scratches for the Flyers.

Sabres-Flyers preview on Sirius XM’s “The War Room”

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Sabres And Flyers Renew Playoff Rivalry Tonight

Greetings from Philly, where I’ll be covering the first two games of the Sabres-Flyers series.  It’s not even 9:00 am and the cheesesteak cravings have begun…

The absence of Mike Richards at practice yesterday set off a little Flyers Nation firestorm.  What made it more interesting was the cloud of secrecy surrounding the whole thing. 

One report said Richards was out with a head cold while another stated it was a maintenance day.  On WIP radio yesterday, veteran radio host Howard Eskin tongue-in-cheek talked about the “armed security guards and the moat surrounding the Wells Fargo Center” with respect to the Flyers releasing details of the captain’s absence.

Eskin also reiterated that a “reliable source” told him that Chris Pronger will not play in the series until at least Game 5.

For the Sabres, Ryan Miller is healthy and ready to go for tonight’s opener.  Defenseman Andrej Sekera held up well in practice and is apparently healthy enough to give it a go.

I’ll be talking Sabres-Flyers on Sirius XM’s “NHL War Room” show on NHL Home Ice Ch. 208 at around 11:40 this morning.

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Bobrovsky Admits He Is Nervous

From The Toronto Sun,

Sergei Bobrovsky says he’s “nervous.”

Not as much as those jittery Philadelphia Flyer fans on Broad St. who hope the rookie goaltender is not the reincarnation of Roman Cechmanek.

In the battle between the pipes that will ultimately help decide the first-round series between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers, defending Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller would seem to have a decided edge.

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Briere On Pronger’s Status

From an interview with Daniel Briere this morning on WGR-550,

“I don’t expect him [Chris Pronger] to be there for the first game, but after that I really don’t know.”

audio clip , Pronger talk begins at 5:20

Update 1:15pm: via Sam Carchidi tweet, Briere told Philly reporters he was kidding.  Gamesmanship.

Update 3:08pm: via Philly.com, Pronger told reporters after practice he expects to play in the series but isn’t sure about Game 1.

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This Is The Matchup You Wanted, Buffalo?

If I had a dollar for every time over the past few weeks that I heard a Buffalo fan or media type tell me that the Flyers were the team they most wanted the Sabres to face in the first round, I think I’d be able to afford a sizable down payment for Brad Richards. 

The excitement level here is off the charts.  85% of the 6000 people that have voted in radio and newspaper web site prediction polls are choosing the Sabres to win.  At both the supermarket and the gas station, I overheard giddy fans discussing what a paper tiger Philly is.  While enjoying a rare April 70-degree day at the marina, I could’ve sworn I saw a group of seagulls flying in the formation of crossed swords.

Spring feels so much better in Buffalo when there’s playoff hockey, and the fact that the fans got the dancing partner of their choosing has ramped up the hysteria and anticipation a little bit more.  For me, all of this enthusiasm from these raised expectations begs just one question.

Am I the only one in this town that thinks the Flyers have a better team?

Fans in 16 different cities have convinced themselves that their team is winning the Cup, so the poll voting results don’t surprise me.  What I don’t agree with, however, is the notion that the path of least resistance for the Sabres to skate past the first round goes through Philadelphia.

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It’s Still Miller’s Team

If there was any question about where Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stands in the view of his teammates, in the midst of the reigning Vezina Trophy winner’s subpar season, last night put it to bed.  I’ll admit my jaw dropped when Miller, instead of Thomas Vanek, was voted by the Sabres players as team MVP.

All Vanek has done this season is take his all-around game to another level while battling to finish in the top 15 in the NHL scoring race (32 goals, 41 assists, 73 points), ahead of the likes of Patrick Kane, Joe Thornton, Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter.  Miller statistically in 2010-11 isn’t even among the top 15 goaltenders.

And to top it all off, when a playoff berth-clinching game was on the line last night, coach Lindy Ruff’s decision to put Miller in to start the 3rd period preceded Buffalo coming back to defeat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime, even though the win was due in large part to a 3-point night and a dazzling game-winning goal by Vanek himself.

The moral of the story here is, despite the well deserved Jhonas Enroth lovefest in Buffalo over the past few weeks, the players in the locker room deep down still know on which side their bread is buttered.  Anointing Miller as their MVP may have been a small gesture, but considering the season he’s had it sure was a big statement.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

Davis originally garnered media attention in 2002 as leader of a lobbying campaign working in unison with potential buyer Mark Hamister attempting to secure state financing to keep the Sabres in Buffalo.  In 2004, Davis was briefly back on the airwaves - this time reaching the finals of the inaugural "WGR Rookie" sports talk competition.  After a few years of "syndicating" his articles on various sites, along with doing some internet radio work, Davis now devotes his new media efforts to bringing quality Sabres related opinions and content to Kukla's Korner.

Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]

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