by Brian Wheeler
Throughout the duration of the 2006-07 regular season, the Sabres top defensive pairing of Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder have been changed with the daunting task of stopping the opposition's top line.
Don't expect anything to change now that Buffalo has advanced to the second-round of the playoffs.
Buffalo's dynamic blueline duo will being seeing a lot of New York's top guns: Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander, and Martin Straka.
The trio recorded 29 of 41 points scored by the Rangers against the Sabres. Jagr led the way with a goal and seven assists. Straka netted four goals and seven points, while Nylander added five assists and seven points.
No other player on the Ranger's lineup scored more than two goals or three points.
"All you can do is take away as much time as you can because there is a lot of skill and it's going to come to the net," said goaltender Ryan Miller
regarding New York, who swept the third seeded Thrashers in the first round. "Ultimately they are going to get shots, it's whether they are going to capitalize on their chances."
Jagr has been most deadly against Buffalo with the man advantage. Of his eight points, five have come on the power play, which scored on 29.2 percent of their chances against the Sabres.
"You've got some issues when you allow [Jagr] on the power play," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "Penalty kill, we're going to have to be a little better against him. But you're facing him every power play, so he's going to get points, we'd like to limit those points."
"We're going to try and not let them score," joked Lydman following practice on Monday.
When asked how Buffalo's penalty kill was going to accomplish that feat, Lydman responded with another jest.
"That's a different story," laughed Lydman. "That's a little bit harder.
"You have to just do the little things like all the clears have to make it out of the zone, and preferably, all the way to the other end. You have to try to take their shots away or block their shots."
Lydman summed up the Sabres philosophy against one of the deadliest scorers in the league with one word: battle.
Buffalo has been able to keep Jagr under wraps at even strength by taking away his operating space and winning battles along the boards. With a man in the penalty box, Jagr is more free to roam the offensive zone, which usually means chaos for penalty kills.
"He's really good when he gets that little bit of room," said Lydman. "He doesn't need a whole lot, but with the man advantage, he's getting that little step on you. He's so good at taking a few steps into the middle and firing that wristshot."
Aggressiveness has been the Sabres mode of attack on Jagr in the past. Penalty killers pressure the six-foot-three, 245-pound behemoth in an effort to get the puck off his stick. But it's not a surefire method for keeping him off the scoresheet. Straka and Nylander are effective triggermen.
"It's way easier said than done, but that's what we're trying to do," said Lydman concerning Buffalo approach. "We still have to worry about the other guys on the ice.
"You can't just go after Jagr and have all three guys in our zone try to take his time and space away because he can move that puck to the other guys and they can make things happen too. Overall, it's a pretty good offense they've got and we have to be ready."