Temper need for revenge

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Lindy Ruff won't need any rah-rah speeches this time around.

Not with his Buffalo Sabres already harbouring strong emotions of bitterness and revenge against the Ottawa Senators entering their coming Eastern Conference final, a highly anticipated series that has all the ingredients of becoming a spicy grudge match.

"I just took my Knute Rockne book off the shelf," Ruff said with a laugh yesterday. "I guess I won't need it.

"There will be no problem with motivation for us, that's for sure."

Still freshly etched in the minds of the Sabre players is the memory of Chris Neil's knockout blow of Chris Drury back on Feb. 22, a controversial hit that left the Buffalo co-captain out of the lineup for several weeks with a concussion.

The Sabres' Drew Stafford immediately came to Drury's aid and took on Neil, igniting a brouhaha that featured Sens goalie Ray Emery going fist city with Buffalo goalie Martin Biron and, moments later, Sabres tough guy Andrew Peters.

Despite the claims by Sabres team officials that Neil delivered a shot to the head, the Senators pugilist was not suspended.

The Sabres make no secret that they are seeking retribution against the Senators. Only this time, they want to do it on the scoreboard, not in the penalty box.

"We'll deal with (the incident)," Ruff said. "We'll talk about it internally. At the same time, you have to remember the big prize ahead is the Stanley Cup. Taking retaliation penalties for something that happened two months ago would be (dumb) and doesn't help reach the ultimate goal."

Having said that, Ruff understands he and his players will be peppered with questions about the Neil-Drury incident in the coming days.

"It might be in the background but there are more important things in the forefront," Ruff said.

Sabres forward Tomas Vanek makes no secret of the fact that there is plenty of ill-will between Buffalo and Ottawa.

"To have a rivalry, you've got to hate an opponent," Vanek said. "Well, the history (with Ottawa) is there.

"It took a few games for that to happen in the first round against the Islanders. It took a few games for that to happen in the second round against the Rangers. But it won't take any games this time around. The bad blood is already there.

"I think (Drury) is focussed on getting back at (the Sens) in a different way -- by scoring goals."

A year ago, the Sabres eliminated the Sens in the second round of the playoffs on Jason Pominville's short-handed overtime goal.

"I think this series will be bigger because a berth in the final is on the line this time around," Ruff said.


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