Flyers-Sabres Preview

The Buffalo Sabres have one more injury to overcome. The

Philadelphia Flyers are preparing to give their goalie carousel one

more spin.

Where and when this rough-and-tumble, momentum shifting

first-round series stops is anyone’s guess. The only thing certain

is the Sabres have a 3-2 edge, and a chance to finish off the

Flyers in Game 6 at Buffalo on Sunday.

”No excuses,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Saturday, shortly

after announcing the team will be without its top two-way forward

Jason Pominville. ”We’re going to have to do whatever it

takes.”

Pominville was hurt in the first period of a 4-3 overtime win on

Friday, when he limped off after appearing to be cut just below the

left calf after colliding with Flyers forward James van

Riemsdyk.

Pominville ranks second on the team with four playoff points (a

goal and three assists), and played a critical role on a

penalty-killing unit that’s limited the Flyers to converting two of

26 chances.

This is but the latest test for a team that overcame the loss of

top-line center Derek Roy in late December. Buffalo responded by

going 29-11-6 in its final 46 games to finish seventh by clinching

a playoff berth in its second-last game of the season.

”Everybody thought, ‘Oh boy, it’s looking kind of bleak now,”’

Ruff said. ”But this team has found a way to rally around each

other.”

The Flyers seek to find the same resolve while facing a familiar

round of questions about their goaltending now that they’ve gone

through all three – Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and now Michael

Leighton – to varying results.

Coach Peter Laviolette isn’t saying whom he’ll go with a day

after Leighton made his series debut Friday in replacing Boucher,

who gave up three goals on 11 shots.

”It will probably be a combination of everything, certainly

where we are now and how the playoffs have gone,” Laviolette said

in discussing what will factor into his decision.

Boucher is the Flyers most experienced goalie and has won both

games in the series since replacing Bobrovsky in the first period

of Game 2.

”Brian is a veteran goaltender, who’s proven he can come back

and play,” Laviolette said.

Whichever goalie starts, this is not foreign territory for the

Flyers. They went through three goalies last year in making their

run to the Stanley Cup finals, and also overcame a 3-0 series

deficit to eliminate Boston in the second round.

”Yeah, it’s the same approach, same situation,” forward Blair

Betts said. ”We win tomorrow afternoon in Buffalo, and we feel we

have the advantage back on our side. It’s not going to be easy, but

it’s a simple thing as far as mindset.”

The Flyers are 3-12 when trailing 3-2 in a series, while having

forced Game 7 six times.

Don’t rule out the possibility of Chris Pronger’s return on

Sunday.

Though the Flyers continue to list Pronger as day to day, the

rugged, veteran defenseman took part in his most extensive drills

in practice Saturday. He’s missed 21 games since having surgery to

repair a broken right hand in March.

The Flyers have missed Pronger’s presence. Despite winning the

Atlantic Division title, they closed the season going 6-4-6 without

Pronger.

Help might be on the way for the Sabres, too.

Ruff said Roy and Jochen Hecht could be days away from

returning. Roy has been out since tearing a left quadriceps tendon

on Dec. 23. Hecht has missed 11 games with what the team is calling

an upper body injury.

The Sabres have confidence in proving they can win no matter

who’s out.

”The guys have dug in and we’ve got ourselves in a good spot,”

veteran forward Mike Grier said. ”But I think we know this game

coming up here tomorrow is probably going to be the toughest,

hardest game a lot of guys in here have played in.”

Making their second consecutive playoff appearance, the Sabres

haven’t advanced past the first round since 2007. Despite injuries,

they’re getting solid goaltending from Ryan Miller, who has shut

out the Flyers twice, and a balanced scoring attack.

The Sabres survived a major scare on Friday when they squandered

a 3-0 lead only to have Tyler Ennis convert a rebound at 5:31 of

overtime.

”It was a pretty awesome feeling,” Ennis said, acknowledging

he watched the replay a few times. ”But I’m looking forward to the

next one.”