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Focusing On Game Three

Tuesday, 05.23.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Focusing On Game Three
Breathe, relax and regroup. That was the message that Sabres
co-captain Daniel Briere conveyed following practice on Tuesday afternoon.

With a one-sided 4-3 loss in Game Two behind them, the Buffalo Sabres are focused on Game Three, which will be played Wednesday at HSBC Arena, in an effort to regain their lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

"We have to get hungrier offensively and show a little more desperation," said Briere. "They showed more intensity (in Game Two) than we did. Everything was going so well lately and we hit a bump yesterday."

Tied for fourth in playoff scoring with teammate Chris Drury and Shawn Horcoff of Edmonton, Briere has been a major piece of the Sabres postseason puzzle. The 5'10'', 176-pound center has registered five goals and 15 points in 13 playoff games.

The long arduous road to the Stanley Cup is filled with peaks and valleys. The key to success is consistency from game-to-game, something Buffalo has shown to this point.

But in order to succeed, the Sabres will need their top line to perform. Monday's game saw Briere, JP Dumont and Jochen Hecht combine for only two shots on goal and four turnovers.

"We've been playing very intense hockey for a while and we haven't had too many letdowns in the playoffs," Briere said. "(Monday) was a little bit of a letdown but you're going to have some games like that and its important that we don't panic."

Briere's "it's-not-the-end-of-the-world" attitude has been contagious throughout the locker room. Dumont and Hecht expressed similar sentiments.

But one thing is for sure.

On the road, Buffalo's opponent gets the last line change. Like the Sabres philosophy of matching lines against Philadelphia and Ottawa's top guns in the opening two rounds of the playoffs, the Hurricanes covered the Briere line with their best defensive trio: Rob Brind'Amour, Justin Williams and Cory Stillman.

In HSBC Arena, Buffalo will take control of the line match-ups.

"It's not about what they do," said Briere referring to his line. "It's the way we have to play. We've played well against everybody in this league and it's about us finding ways to create some offense."

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If you had asked Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff before the best-of-seven series began about the first two games, and he would have told you how happy he would be to return to HSBC Arena with the series tied.

After doing just that, Ruff says the most disappointing part of the split was the way the team ended up at 1-1. Buffalo has been outplayed by Carolina in three of the six periods of the series.

"We did some things that weren't characteristic of our team and that we need to push aside," Ruff said. "All the chips are on the table and you want to move forward."

"But we're not going to question anybody in that room. They've been a terrific group all year long. We've put it behind us and are going to focus on Game Three."

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Tim Connolly and Teppo Numminen both remain day-to-day and each will be re-evaluated tomorrow prior to Game Three to determine their status for that night.

Before Game Two, Ruff reported that Numminen was 50/50. On Tuesday, the longest tenured coach in the NHL, who has a healthy sense of humor, told of an improvement in the defenseman's condition.

"He's probably 60/40 now," joked Ruff. "He's feeling a little bit better."

Connolly has reportedly "been on the ice" by himself for exercise sessions and has shown some headway with his upper body injury. No hint of a return date has been given.

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Adam Mair could be wearing a Sabres sweater as soon as Wednesday night. Mair traveled to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to meet with specialists concerning his post-concussion symptoms. If the tests come back positive, Mair could be inserted into the lineup for Game Three.

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