Saturday, April 16, 2011

Flyers - Sabres Game 2 preview

By Dan Di Sciullo

The second-seeded Philadelphia Flyers failed to get a puck past Ryan Miller in losing the opener of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, but the Atlantic Division champions will try to even the best-of-seven series when they host the Buffalo Sabres today at Wells Fargo Center.

Miller anchored seventh-seeded Buffalo to Thursday's Game 1 victory in Philadelphia, turning aside all 35 shots he faced to notch the second shutout of his postseason career in the Sabres' 1-0 triumph.

Winning Game 1 has been huge historically in playoff battles between the Flyers and Sabres, as the winner of the opener has gone on two claim all eight postseason matchups.

For Miller, his only other playoff whitewash also came at the expense of Philly, on April 30, 2006 in Game 5 of an Eastern quarterfinal, a 3-0 decision. That was the last time these clubs met in the playoffs and Buffalo took that series in six games to win for the third time in its eight playoff series versus the Flyers.

The only goal in Thursday's game was scored by Patrick Kaleta at 5:56 of the third period.

"We have played forty of these games," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "We have been playing this type of game for three months. It has been the one goal game, whether it is 2-1, or 3-2, or tied late in the period. We have been tested continually down the stretch."

Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky acquitted himself well in his first- ever postseason start, making 24 saves for the Flyers, who had not been blanked beyond the regular season since Game 5 of the 2008 Eastern finals against Pittsburgh.

"It feels great but I would have loved to have won it," the 22-year-old Russian said. "It's only starting."

The Flyers dominated play for much of the game and were especially good in the second period, when Philly fired 16 shots Miller's way. But, Buffalo weathered the storm and finally broke through early in the third period. Paul Gaustad won a battle along the right boards and dished back to the left point. Marc- Andre Gragnani's initial shot was kicked out by Bobrovsky, but Kaleta stood atop the crease to net the rebound.

"It was awesome. I wanted to go out there and be a positive contribution to the team and was fortunate enough to get a goal," said Kaleta, who missed more than a month late in the season with a knee injury.

Philadelphia went 0-for-5 on the power play and failed to score on a two-man advantage in the second period.

"It's frustrating obviously. A loss is not easy and you kind of wonder where you went wrong and what you could have done," said Flyers captain Mike Richards. "We created a lot, we didn't give up much, and we were pretty tight defensively. We just have to find those pucks."

The Flyers, who made a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, seemed to run out of gas at the end of this year's regular season, going 7-8-6 record over the last 21 games.

Of course, Philadelphia played a large portion of the stretch run, and Game 1 of this series, without top defenseman Chris Pronger, who is still recovering from surgery to repair his fractured right hand. Pronger, who skated in just 50 games for Philly this season, is considered to be day-to-day, but he is not expected to be available today.

For Buffalo, defensemen Shaone Morrisonn and Andrej Sekera are questionable for today's test with upper body injuries. Morrisonn was injured in Game 1, while Sekera sat out the final two games of the regular season in addition to missing Thursday's game.

The Flyers and Sabres split the season series this year, with Philly taking the first two encounters and Buffalo posting victories on March 5 and April 8.

Philadelphia was 22-12-7 as the host this season, while the Sabres were 22-13-6 as the visiting team. Buffalo will host the next two games of this series, including Monday's Game 3 encounter at HSBC Arena.

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