Meszaros has improved play

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

BUFFALO -- It was the second time in less than 48 hours he had hit a post.

The first was his shot off the crossbar on a shorthanded 2-on-0 breakaway in the third period of Game 3.

This one was an intended pass that dinged the pillar Derek Roy commonly refers to as his leg.

From the opening faceoff of Game 4, off Roy to Chris Drury back to Roy and behind Ray Emery took all of nine seconds.

It gave the Sabres a lead they would never relinquish, allowing them to bring the Eastern Conference final back to an HSBC Arena that, quite frankly, has been even louder than Scotiabank Place.

Of all the Senators, it's most fitting that Andrej Meszaros was the one to open the door that allowed the Sabres back in this series. The Slovak stubbed his toe a team-leading number of times in his sophomore-jinxed 2006-07 campaign.

"I know I didn't play good the whole season," Wade Redden's blue-line partner said yesterday. "Sometimes when you don't play good, that's what happens. It was bad luck ... just like the whole season."

Meszaros and Antoine Vermette are the only two Senators still playing who finished the season with a minus.

Vermette was minus-2. Meszaros, whose plus-34 last year led all rookies and was tied for third overall in the NHL, made an about-face to minus-15.

In the playoffs, however, he's turning it around again.

Despite the giveaway and posting of a negative number for the first time in 10 games, Meszaros is plus-7 through 14 playoff games. Redden, whose 23:32 average ice time is tops on the team, is also the only other player with a better post-season plus than Meszaros. He's plus-8.

Three times they've allowed the Sabres a solid first-minute scoring chance in this series, and once it has cost them.

The Senators will want to avoid adding any fuel to an already highly charged crowd at HSBC Arena this afternoon.

Meszaros, who was attempting a pass he has successfully completed 100 times this season, might want to choose a route that has an even higher rate of success rate today.

"It wasn't the greatest play, it was a bad play, but I talked to the coach about what I should do there," he said. "I have to forget about it and move on."

Just like he seems to have done with his sophomore season since April 11.

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL

On game days, the Senators are usually sleeping at 2 p.m. Today, they better be wide awake. But their pre-game nap was eight hours long. "The difference is you start preparing mentally the night before, more than you would if it was a 7 p.m. start," Mike Comrie said of the NBC-prompted opening puck drop. "I prefer whatever TV wants." ... All players from both sides are used to matinees, Comrie added. "We've played so many afternoon games in our career. Back when I was 10 years old I'd play three games in a day." Just three? "That's with a practice. But it was optional." ... Asked about his crankiness at practice yesterday, Bryan Murray played dumb. "I'm just the opposite. I'm so easy on these guys now it's ridiculous. I want them to pass the puck, get to the spot the puck is passed, beyond that I'm in really great humour (yesterday)."

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The traditional route to Buffalo for Team Sun includes a stop at the 1,000 Island Bait Store. C.J. and I are going in different directions when we get there. "Where else can you get a ball cap, a bag of chips and dip for $6.01?," he says. And I thought the Ruger Redhawk Magnum 44 for $639 and the 30-pack of Busch Light for $13.99 were good deals ... Grabbing a reporter's pad, Tom Preissing quoted himself when he started jotting down his own thoughts. "God willing, I'd like to thank my family to use the gifts bestowed upon myself," he wrote. Huh? Okay, so I can't score on Martin Brodeur from a bad angle, but not everybody can compose, either. And to think, Preissing is the "college boy" of the team ... Dany Heatley has now gone five games without a goal. That could spell trouble for Buffalo. "I think Dany's getting chances," said Murray. "He's a goal scorer. They go in cycles." ... On Christoph Schubert's physical input Wednesday, Murray said: "Schubie had seven hits for us the other night. You've got to recognize the big hitting ... he was a big player for us. Fans attach themselves to the goals and the hits." ... Last word goes to Buffalo's answer to J.R. and Garry Galley -- the WGR drive-home team of Schopp and The Bulldog. "If (the Sabres) win (today), I'll be confident they have found their game," one of them said yesterday. "If they find their game, I still like my goalie better than their goalie. I'll be confident we can pull it off. Win (today) and it's over." That would make it do-or-die for the Senators then?


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