Sabres in a tight spot

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

WILMINGTON, MASS. - Lindy Ruff thought it was a little early to be talking about “must-win” games.

“Must play well,” corrected the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, who must pound that message through to his team for tonight’s fourth game against Boston, or go home in an extremely tough 3-1 hole. “I’m seeing exactly what I thought I’d see from the Bruins, close games. They always have numbers back on defence. For both teams, the power plays aren’t getting much going on.”

Ruff points to the tight scores in the nine Buffalo - Boston games this season, all of them decided by two goals or less, as proof his team is not starting to get out-matched. But he should be worried that the Bruins are at par or better than the Sabres in the physical department, and have had two games of cashing in on scoring chances. Boston had the worst offence in the league, so that’s a red flag for the Sabres.

“I would say they’re finishing well,” Ruff admitted, mentioning the Game 3 winner when 42-year-old Mark Recchi perfectly braced for a collision to knock Tyler Kennedy off the puck and set up Patrice Bergeron. “It was a good move by a veteran player and Kennedy will put that in his pocket and learn from it.”

The Sabres are still without forwards Thomas Vanek (ankle) and Jochen Hecht (thumb), while Matt Ellis, whose bell was rung by Johnny Boychuk in Game 3, is questionable. Ruff conceded that the longer Vanek can’t skate the less likely he’ll be back for the last two or three games in this series.

“I’m not discouraged, it’s just one of those things where the next day could be better (for Vanek),” Ruff said.

The Sabres are contemplating calling up Nathan Gerbe from Portland, but Ellis was in good spirits at a suburban rink Tuesday after not going on the ice.

“I’ve seen (himself laid out) time and time again on the TV highlights,” Ellis said, managing a smile. “I’m sure it will turn up on one of Don Cherry’s tapes. It was a good check. I had my head down looking at Patty (Kaleta) along the wall to give him a pass.

“But it was a good jolt. It was playoff hockey. He did what he had to do and if the opportunity comes up (for Ellis) to catch him in the corner or whatnot ... you’re just trying to win.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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