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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 9:45 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Sabres win, 1-0, behind Miller's 33 stops

The Buffalo Sabres have scored a monumental 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal round here at Wells Fargo Center.

Leading the way was the best player on the ice, goalie Ryan Miller, who turned aside 33 shots. Miller made 16 saves in the second period.

The Sabres finally broke the ice 5:56 into the third when Patrick Kaleta slammed home a rebound while charging down the slot and avoiding Flyers defender Danny Syvret to retrieve the puck. Marc-Andre Gragnani took the initial shot from the top of the left circle that Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped but couldn't control.

The rebound hit the tape of an alert Kaleta, who connecting for his first goal in 17 games. It was the second of his career in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 9:17 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Sabres-Flyers remain scoreless through two periods

OK. It's white-knuckle time for those fans of the Flyers and Sabres!

Fact: One goal might be enough in this one folks.

After 40 minutes of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal round, the Flyers and Sabres are scoreless. Sabres' Olympic silver-medal winning goalie Ryan Miller is earning his keep with 26 saves. Meanwhile, rookie Sergei Bobrovsky has turned back 19 shots.

The Flyers are certainly taking advantage of their great depth up front and, at this point, might be wearing down the Sabres. Still, there's one more regulation period remaining and Buffalo remains one goal from giving Miller the one-goal lead he might need to pull out the opener.

The Flyers still hold an edge in body checks, 31-26. Yes -- 58 total hits for the game through two periods. The Sabres have blocked 11 shots and the Flyers have three blocks.

Some second-period highlights:

* The Flyers failed to take advantage of a 5-on-3 power-play with 10:18 remaining in the second period. Working a two-man advantage for 38 seconds after Shaone Morrisonn was whistled for slashing, the Sabres were able to kill it off behind the splendid play of Chris Butler, Tim Connolly and Tyler Myers.

* The Flyers have totaled 11 of their shots on four power-play opportunities for the game so far.

* With 3:22 remaining in the second, James van Riemsdyk, who has recorded xx shots, took one in the chops from Chris Butler as he attempted to jam the crease in front of Ryan Miller. Claude Giroux made the play happen with good pressure in front.

* The Sabres appeared a tad slower in the frame after being forced to kill off the Flyers' power-play attempts. Miller stood tall, with 16 stops in the second.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 8:28 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Sabres and Flyers close out fantastic first

Despite a scoreless opening period, the Wells Fargo Center was jumping as both the Flyers and Sabres performed at a fast and furious pace.

Both goalies saw plenty of traffic, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk, who was playing possessed throughout, hit a goal post five midway through and both teams combined for 20 shots and 31 body checks -- the Flyers with 19 of those hits.

It was pretty amazing stuff to watch, but par for the course when the Flyers and Sabres are mixing it up.

Some of the highlights of the frame included a big hit by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta on Ville Leino in the neutral zone and along the boards 9:08 into the frame. Mike Richards' had a golden chance off a backhand from the slot that Ryan Miller never saw but got his right pad on at the 12:01 mark. In addition to hitting iron, van Riemsdyk was also diving for loose pucks and had a few choice words for Paul Gaustad following a stoppage of play right beside Miller.

The Flyers' top line was a familiar trio -- Danny Briere, Leino and Scott Hartnell. Briere led his team with four hits and even induced a penalty on Steve Montador in the closing minutes of the first.

The Sabres, meanwhile, received an inspiring effort from Drew Stafford, who topped his team with three shots on net and three hits while logging 4:50 of ice time on six shifts.

Both Miller and Bobrovsky finished with 10 saves.

Time to sharpen up the blades for the start of Period 2 …

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 7:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Flyers - Sabres complete pre-game warmups

We're here at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia awaiting puck drop for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal-round match between the Flyers and Sabres.

Flyers' fans are anticipating Lauren Hart's God Bless America. We'll see -- do they break it out this early in the playoffs? Most likely.

Starting lineups:
Flyers - JVR-Carter-Giroux (Meszaros-O'Donnell) Bobrovsky
Sabres - Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta (Butler-Myers) Miller


Flyers lineups during warmups:
Briere-Hartnell-Leino
Carter-Giroux-JVR
Richards-Versteeg-Nodl
Betts-Powe-Carcillo
OUT: Zherdev and Shelley

Sabres lineups during warmups:
Stafford-Boyes-Ennis
Connolly-Pominville-Vanek
McCormick-Niedermayer-Grier
Gaustad-Gerbe-Kaleta
OUT: Hecht or Mancari

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 3:28 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Buffalo's Ryan Miller ready for Flyers

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller feels there's no significant advantage his team gained by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers six days ago, 4-3, on home ice other than the fact it helped catapult them among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

Miller, who will get the nod in Game 1 against the Flyers to mark his 41st postseason appearance, enters with a 12-8-1 career mark with a 2.88 goals-against average and .905 save percentage against the Flyers.
Ryan Miller Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers,

"Both teams are familiar with each other," Miller said following practice on Thursday. "It's one of those series' where the teams will have a different game plan; maybe they'll be a little loose. The challenge for us and for a lot of teams this time of year, is disciplined. That usually makes a difference, and you have to work through situations."

The Sabres went 2-2-0 in four regular season meetings against Philadelphia this season and three of the contest were decided by two-or-more goals.

Miller admits he doesn't think about preparing any differently for a playoff game than he does a regular season contest. And that's good news for Sabres' fans as Miller finished the year 34-22-8 with a 2.59 GAA, .916 save percentage and 5 shutouts.

"I try not to prepare differently," Miller said. "I always try and look at the grand scheme of things."

The biggest concern for Miller is making certain those big bodies in front aren't completely screening his vision.

"You have to take away their space; they're probably going to earn some space just by their big presence but we can't allow them to do it easily," he said. "It doesn't matter how big you are, they might have strength in some matchups, but not all the time. If we're smart with the puck in some areas, we'll be OK."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:53 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Will Zherdev play?

The Flyers didn't do line rushes during Thursday's morning practice, so it's unclear what the exact forward lines could look like, but what was noticeable were the final three players off the ice -- forwards Nikolay Zherdev and Jody Shelley, and defenseman Nick Boynton.

Generally the players who come off last this time of year have stayed out longer to get extra skating in because they won't be playing.

Zherdev had been a healthy scratch for 19 of 23 games between Feb. 13 and March 31, but had played the final five regular-season games, mostly on a line with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux. He had a goal and 2 assists in that time and looked possibly to have earned his way back into the lineup.

Coach Peter Laviolette has a policy of not discussing lineups or playing decisions, so there's no knowing which way he's leaning. But if Zherdev does sit out, it's possible James van Riemsdyk joins Carter and Giroux, and Daniel Carcillo plays alongside Mike Richards and Kris Versteeg.

The other line combinations likely will be Danny Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino, and Blair Betts centering Darroll Powe and either Andreas Nodl or Shelley.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 2:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Sabres' Sekera out; Grier probable

While Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera skated this morning at Wells Fargo Center, he will not be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Sekera missed the final two regular-season games and was limited in practice this week because of an upper-body muscle strain. Forward Mike Grier, on the other hand, also skated well and is a good bet to be making his first
Buffalo Sabres' Mike Grier, top, and Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards vie for a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
appearance  in eight games because of a knee injury.

Against a team like the Flyers, Grier's physical style and ability to block shots would certainly go a long way.

"Yeah, this type of team suits my style," Grier told NHL.com. "This time of year, the hockey is fun to play in. Especially for the bigger guys and grinders … you can kind of have more of an effect on a game and the outcome than in the regular season. I'm looking forward to it. They have a great team with some skill over there, so it's a real challenge for us."

Sabres second-year defenseman Tyler Myers would certainly welcome Grier's presence back to the lineup.

"He's been a very important part of our team," Myers said. "He's a big body who work teams down low and does a lot of little things that sometimes go unnoticed. A lot of young guys look up to him; he's a great guy to have in the lineup."

In 73 games this season, Grier produced 16 points in 73 games, but his presence away from the puck in collecting 112 hits, 48 blocked shots and 26 steals was far more valuable.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:52 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

No better place for Ennis than Philadelphia

Count Buffalo Sabres rookie forward Tyler Ennis among those who agree with W.C. Fields, who once said, "All things being equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Ennis played his first NHL game here, Nov. 14, 2009, and scored his first goal in that game, and he had a goal and an assist here in a 5-3 Sabres win on March 5.

He's back Thursday looking to add to those numbers.

"I scored my first goal here in my first game, that was really exciting for me," he told NHL.com. "I know this place is going to be rocking pretty good, the fans are pretty crazy so we're all pretty excited. It's going to be loud and crazy, going to be a competitive series. Both teams play hard. We're going to have to try to shut them down. They play really offensive, so we're looking forward to it."

His job will be a bit easier without Philadelphia's All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger, but not that much easier.

"They have a really strong team without him," said Ennis. "He's a great player and a very important part of their team. But they have a lot of great D-men. He plays hard but a lot of (their) guys play hard, too. We just have to play the same way we've been playing."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

Flyers hoping to put power in power play

With their array of talent up front, you would think the Philadelphia Flyers' power play would run with precision and efficiency.

That didn't happen, however, as Philadelphia was just 19th with man-advantage during the regular season, with a 16.6-percent efficiency.

"It's been an issue all year," defenseman Matt Carle told NHL.com. "That's just one of those things. It seems like we've been answering those questions all season."

The struggles were no more obvious than down the stretch, as the team as a whole struggled. In their last 23 games, they were just 10-for-72 (13.9 percent) on the power play, while team went just 8-8-7.

"I think a lot of that (power-play struggles) the last couple weeks goes hand in hand with where we were (as a team) the last couple of weeks," said coach Peter Laviolette. "Just inconsistent."

It's a fine line between a successful power play and a wasted opportunity, but no one's been able to spot the one or two things that might need to be fixed.

"It's always different," said Danny Briere. "There's days where the breakout might not work or we don't retrieve pucks or we're forcing plays. Usually it's one little thing that you need to fix. On the power play you need everything to go right for you to score a goal. You need a good breakout, you need to retrieve the puck, need to set it up, have people in position and find a way to get the puck to the net, have guys in front. There's all kinds of little things. If one thing is off, the puck goes down the ice and you have to start over again."

Part of the problem could be the fact that the Flyers have so many talented offensive players to use and not enough power-play time to use them. Who does Laviolette pick to center the two units -- Mike Richards and Jeff Carter? Or Claude Giroux and Briere? If you shift one to the wing, where does that leave Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, Nikolay Zherdev and Kris Versteeg?

In the absence of injured defenseman Chris Pronger, Laviolette has tried using a fourth forward to play the point, at times going with Richards, van Riemsdyk and Versteeg.

Nothing, however has seemed to work, no matter how much Laviolette has juggled.

"I think he's going to try different groups and try to get some chemistry going with whatever is going to work," said Carle. "We haven't really had a consistent group all year that's been working. It's just one of those things that I think he's trying to see how it goes."

The Flyers have spent their off-time since the regular season ended attempting to solve their power-play problems, and the players feel they'll see the benefit of that work starting Thursday.

"Everything the last couple days has been positive," said Carle. "That's the way we're feeling after this week. We kept everything positive and we're looking forward to the start tomorrow."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 6:32 PM

By David Kalan -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Philadelphia-Buffalo Live Blog

EA SPORTS Simulation: Flyers advance

Every spring there is no shortage of postseason predictions and prognostications, and EA Sports has its own answers to which team will be advancing to round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using its EA SPORTS NHL 11 simulation engine, EA SPORTS has determined that Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Tampa Bay will emerge from the first round in the East, while Vancouver, San Jose, Detroit and Nashville will do so from the West, and perhaps the fans should take note. EA SPORTS correctly tabbed the Canucks to take the Presidents' Trophy this season, while also predicting Chicago's eventual reunion with Lord Stanley last June.

While no major upsets are predicted in the conference quarterfinals, both Nashville and Boston are predicted to be pushed to the brink before moving on after a Game 7 victory. Sweeps, too, are in short supply, however, as only the Capitals are tipped to breeze past their first-round opponent in four games.

EA SPORTS NHL 11 Round 1 Predictions

Western Conference

 
(1) Vancouver defeats (8) Chicago; 4-2

(2) San Jose defeats (7) LA Kings; 4-1

(3) Detroit defeats (6) Phoenix; 4-2

(5) Nashville defeats (4) Anaheim; 4-3
 
Eastern Conference

(1) Washington defeats (8) NY Rangers; 4-0

(2) Philadelphia defeats (7) Buffalo; 4-1

(3) Boston defeats Montreal (6); 4-3

(5) Tampa Bay defeats (4) Pittsburgh; 4-2
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic