Facing elimination, Sabres stay defiant

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:57 PM ET

BUFFALO - Doomed though they might be, the Sabres get full marks for defiance.

Pointing to 10 close results (two goals or less) between themselves and the Boston Bruins in regular season and playoff matches, and the fact they’ve led or were tied much of this series, the Sabres approached Game 5 here on Friday with lots of outward confidence.

“We know what needs to be done,” goaltender Ryan Miller said after the morning skate. “It’s a race to four wins and they still have to put us away. And we’re a good team.

“Any game in this series could’ve gone either way. We’ve made some errors and they’ve got some bounces and that’s how we sit here (down 3-1).”

Coach Lindy Ruff will make one lineup change at least, dropping winger Raffi Torres for the more offensive-minded Nathan Gerbe on the third line.

“It’s a hunch, it’s throwing a kid in who can maybe give us an offensive spark,” Ruff said. “Maybe be a second-unit power play guy, to add that one goal.

“Physically, we’ve been all right. There are guys I’m unhappier with (such as Derek Roy and Tim Connolly) who have to come through.”

Buffalo has scored first in all four games to date.

“We have to stay with it, finish the deal,” Ruff said of building on the lead. “We laid everything on the line last game (a double-overtime loss), we’ll lay everything on again tonight. It’s going to come down to a little bit better execution.

“We have to have the best night of the series on special teams.”

Buffalo is 0-for-14 on the power play with scoring winger Thomas Vanek out.

The Bruins were loose at their skate, knowing a win gives them extra time to get ready for the next series.

“If anyone thinks we’re taking this game lightly, they’re wrong,” coach Claude Julien said. “It only gets harder from here.”

Julien used Buffalo captain Craig Rivet as an example. He was a member of the Montreal team in 2004 that came back from a 3-1 deficit against Boston, one of just 21 teams ever to do it in 234 best-of-sevens prior to the 2010 playoffs.

A sold out crowd at HSBC Arena on Friday, and another for Game 7 if the series ever gets that far, will be a tremendous boost for Buffalo.

“I’ve been a part of that (as a fan) and part of my role is getting them going,” Angola, N.Y.-born winger Patrick Kaleta said. “By far they’re the best fans in the NHL. You can look around and see how many times things have gone against us through the years, football or hockey, and every game they come back louder. That’s why Buffalo is so valuable (as a franchise).”

Vanek (ankle) will miss the game for the Sabres.

Boston's Marc Savard continues to skate but Julien said there was concussion protocol for the centre to go through, not to mention conditioning, before he’s cleared to play.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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