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Sabres can clinch playoff berth by beating Flyers

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (46-23-11) at SABRES (41-29-10)

TV -- TCN-Philadelphia (HD), MSG-Buffalo (HD)

Last 10 -- Philadelphia 3-4-3; Buffalo 7-1-2

Season series -- This will be the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. The Flyers won the first two games, but Buffalo took the most recent meeting, 5-3 in Philadelphia on March 5.

Big story -- It's pretty simple for the Sabres -- win and they clinch a playoff spot.

For Philadelphia, a win combined with a Pittsburgh loss gives the Flyers the Atlantic Division title, as well as giving them a chance to catch Washington for the Eastern Conference lead.

Team Scope:

Flyers -- During his playing days, Paul Holmgren was one of the more intimidating players in the League. Apparently that hasn't changed much now that he's the Flyers' GM.

"Paul Holmgren can be a scary guy," forward Scott Hartnell told "Especially when he gives you that look."

The whole team, as well as the coaching staff, got the look Wednesday during a closed-door meeting that followed Tuesday's 5-2 loss in Ottawa.

"It needed to be done," Danny Briere told of Holmgren's address. "At the same, it's time to stop talking and act it out on the ice. There's lots of little things that needed to be said and resolved."

Briere said there was tension in the room when Holmgren spoke.

"It wasn't the most comfortable place to be," he said. "He (Holmgren) is intimidating."

Sabres -- Buffalo's playoff push could get a welcome bonus Friday -- the return of goalie Ryan Miller.

Miller has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury that the Buffalo News is reporting to be an injured collarbone, but he went through practice Thursday and coach Lindy Ruff told reporters he expected Miller to play in one of the Sabres' final two games -- Friday against Philadelphia or Saturday at Columbus.

"He might be able to play tomorrow. We're not going to make that call right now," Ruff said after Friday's practice. "We tried to get him in some drills where he faced traffic, faced a little bit of physicality with guys jamming and pushing around the net, just try to give him game-like simulation. He looked pretty good, had a good practice. He said he felt pretty good, so all that is real good."

Not that the Sabres exactly have struggled in Miller absence. Jhonas Enroth is 3-0-1 in his last four games and has stopped 58 of 61 shots in his last two games.

The Sabres will have plenty of support -- HBSC Arena will be packed to welcome back more than 80 alumni on Fan Appreciation Night.

Who's hot -- If the Flyers have Briere in the lineup, Buffalo should be worried. The former Sabre has 2 goals and 4 assists in three games against Buffalo this season. … Sabres forward Thomas Vanek has 6 goals and 2 assists in his last seven games, including a hat trick in Tuesday night's 4-2 win against Tampa Bay.

Injury report -- Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger (hand) is out until the playoffs. Briere and forward Blair Betts both sat out Tuesday's game with lower-body injuries but are listed as questionable for Friday. Forward Jody Shelley has been cleared to play after recovering from a broken orbital bone. … Beside Miller, Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta (knee) is possible for Friday, but forward Mike Grier (knee) is out.

Stat pack -- Philadelphia started the season 39-15-5, but in the Flyers' last 21 games, they're just 7-8-6. They've been outscored 61-52, and their power play is just 9-for-66 (13.6 percent).

Puck drop -- Briere wouldn't commit to playing Friday, but said unless something big changes, he hoped to be available for coach Peter Laviolette to use.

"I felt great today," Briere said. "I came in this morning and the pain was gone, which was a good sign. Out there I was able to do everything as far as pushing it, doing all the drills and that stuff. I still have another day and a half before the game, but I'm happy with the way it's looking right now. Right now I'd say I'm probably going to be in, or be able to play tomorrow if he (Laviolette) needs me."

He won't rush things, though, and there's a chance he could sit out Friday, as well as Saturday's season finale against the Islanders.

"That was the thought all along, if it's not ready I was going to sit out," said Briere. "The way I've been feeling the last couple days, especially today, that's why I think having another day and a half, I'm very confident that it's all good."

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