Sabres D is the key

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:46 PM ET

BUFFALO -- Life never is easy as a National Hockey League defenceman.

When you're facing an elite team and you're short-staffed, the task becomes even more difficult.

The Buffalo Sabres lost defenceman Dmitri Kalinin in the previous round. In the second period of the opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, they lost Teppo Numminen.

In typical NHL bush-league fashion, no one will say what Numminen's injury is. It is believed to be a bad back, but it might be a groin problem.

Either way, and whether Numminen is back for tonight's Game 3 or not, the Hurricanes know what they want to do. They want to put pressure on the Buffalo defence.

"We want to get in there, get pucks behind their D and hit everything that moves," said Kevyn Adams, the Carolina forward and former Leaf who has been quite adept at utilizing all three of the tactics he mentioned.

"Our D has told us that the toughest thing is going back all night and knowing you're going to get hit," continued Adams, "so you want to make sure every chance you get that you're physical, that you have that tenacious attitude where you go on the ice and fight for every inch."

As is the case with every other team still alive at this stage of the season, the Sabres possess an extremely effective transition game. That's another reason for the Hurricanes to make sure they put the puck deep. No matter how quick you are, you can't create a neutral-zone turnover in your defensive zone.

"They're so quick," said Adams. "They live for you turning the puck over, so you have to be extra careful through the neutral zone and laying it through their D and not giving them any reason to turn it back on you.

"They have a lot of quick forwards who live off that, and their D is very good at going back, making plays out of the zone, making the first pass."

The more the Hurricanes play that game, the more likely it is to take its toll. "When you're missing two top guys," said Adams, "you have to try take advantage, try to tire teams out."

In a best-of-seven series, that's a reasonable approach.


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