After playing Games 1 and 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series in a sea of orange, the Sabres have returned to Buffalo and expect to play in front of an emotional home crowd on Monday night.
| (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) |
Buffalo and Philadelphia split the first two games of the series, which now shifts to HSBC Arena for the next two contests, and the Sabres are excited to hit the ice in front of the hometown fans.
“I think the emotion in the building will be incredible,” said Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “I think the atmosphere has always been incredible. It’s our fans, it’s our energy… It’s going to be fun to be in our building.”Nathan Gerbe
now has four career NHL playoff games under his belt, only one of which was played on home ice. He’s looking forward to getting another chance to play in front of the home crowd on Monday.
“It’s going to be awesome… It’s such a fun time of year and the playoffs bring out the passion and the desperation from everyone and I love that,” said Gerbe.
It’s the playoffs. A series comes down to a battle of wills. I think both teams are trying to prove to the other team that they want it more and they’re willing to do more than their opponent. It’s all about standing your ground and trying to impose your will on them and eventually wearing them down over a seven-game series.” - Mike Grier on what it takes to win in the playoffsDrew Stafford
, who scored 18 of his career-high 31 goals during the regular season at home, is also excited to have the hometown support behind the team.
“It’s going to be a good feeling. We’re hoping the fans really get into it and cheer us on because we can definitely feed off that and use it to our advantage,” said Stafford.
The Sabres will have two recent trends working in their favor Monday night when they take the ice for Game 3 looking to rebound from Saturday’s 5-4 loss. Since Feb. 23, they have not lost consecutive games. In that same time frame, they have gone 9-1-2 on home ice.
“We have a mentality that if we lost two in row, our dream probably would have slipped away here,” said Mike Weber
, referring to the team’s focus on not losing back-to-back games. “No one wants to lose. We want to win, we want to be successful. We’ve really taken our focus to the next level in making sure that we bounce back very strong from a loss.”
According to Ruff, dealing with adversity during the regular season prepared the team for the playoffs.
“Playoffs is the time of year where you’d like to win all four games in one night, but the schedule isn’t set up that way. It’s dealing with adversity, it’s dealing with the emotions of a loss, it’s being able to put the win away just as fast as you put the loss away. I think we were able to prove that to ourselves for the past couple of months under extreme pressure. And it was (pressure), because we knew we couldn’t afford to go on any type of two-game, three-game slide.”
The pressure Ruff referred to was the deep hole the team had created for itself and was forced to climb out of just to get back into playoff contention. The turnaround started around the new year and carried all the way into April and the end of the regular season. Now, the same energy and emotion the Sabres used to earn a spot in the postseason has ramped up.
“(The players) have had it for three months, the right type of energy,” Ruff said. “They pretty well had the right type of energy, the right desperation. There was some shot-blocking there that you would never see in a regular season game, there were some hits you’d never see, there was face-to-face where you saw guys just laughing in the other guy’s face. It’s playoff time.”
Through two games, playoff-tested veteran Mike Grier ranked fourth in the NHL with 11 postseason hits and has been a prime example of a player exhibiting what Ruff called the “right type of energy.” With 96 Stanley Cup Playoff games to his credit, Grier knows what goes into winning a series.
“It’s the playoffs. A series comes down to a battle of wills. I think both teams are trying to prove to the other team that they want it more and they’re willing to do more than their opponent. It’s all about standing your ground and trying to impose your will on them and eventually wearing them down over a seven-game series.”
The battle of wills resumes at 7 p.m. on Monday at HSBC Arena.