Tim Connolly, on the other hand, has been all but ruled out for this series. There was some early hope that he would be able to return to the ice after having concussion-like symptoms resulting from a hit in game two of the series with Ottawa.
Fourth-line center Adam Mair, also out with a concussion, has been ruled "possible" for a return to the ice. There may just be a spot for him, too. In a "he said, she said" battle of newspaper quotes between captain Daniel Briere and Lindy Ruff, Ruff practically threatened to bench Briere. You can read the story about all this here , but here's the bare-bones:
Briere said he and the other forwards were having to work too hard because they were bailing out the rookie defensemen:
Maybe the coaches won't agree with me, or some of the other players, but the feeling I have is that early on we just sat back a little too much, we wanted to make sure our new defencemen would have a chance and we wanted to support them in our zone. ...
To which Lindy snapped a thinly veiled threat:
That's a bunch of crap. I'm sorry they feel that way... If in their minds they feel they overcompensated, then it's my job to get their minds set in the right place... If that's where they were at, they won't be there tomorrow.
I don't think he's bluffing, but I don't think it's going to be a problem, either.
Even before this came out, one of the writers for the Buffalo News, Bucky Gleason, had already decided to bail on the Crossed Swords. The impression I get is that this guy is Buffalo's answer to Ned Barrett. In his article, though, he brings up a point about the Sabres trade deadline inactivity that I brought up back in March. He thinks the Sabres should have traded goaltender Martin Biron for a quality defenseman instead of trading third-string goalie Mika Noronen to Vancouver for a case of stick tape and the third season of "Eight Is Enough" on beta video cassette. There has been a good deal of similar criticism hurled the Sabres way in light of their blueline plight. Sabres management, meanwhile, insists that it tried hard to get a good blueliner.
In case you're too lazy to click on the link to my post from March 9, here's the stuff you need to see that's pertinent to this post:
Edmonton shored up their goaltending situation, but not in a way that I expected. I sort of thought that Buffalo would ship Marty Biron out there. Anyway, a good pickup in Dwayne Roloson from the Wild. Roloson is a much better keeper than his numbers would indicate. The Oilers didn't really give up very much in that exchange. A first round pick and a conditional pick. However, that leaves Minnesota with only Manny Fernandez. They certainly don't have a stockpile of goalies at their AHL affiliate Houston Aeros. So Minnesota needs to do something.
And then this other snip:
I expect the Sabres to deal one of their goalies for some D. Ryan Miller will stay for sure, but I don't know whether they'll deal Biron or Mika Noronen. They might not get any takers on Noronen, but Biron would be a great asset to a team like the Wild, who now have only one keeper. EDIT -- 1:02 PM <<< as I was writing this, Noronen was dealt to Vancouver for a second round pick <<<<
I encourage you to jump in the time machine, though. It's just two and a half months. I said some poignant stuff in that post. Of course that post was made an hour before the Mark Recchi trade, and I said I thought the Canes were done. So I was wrong on that.
Anyway, back to the point. The last thing in the world the Sabres need now is infighting and wavering support from the fans. I think they'll have a strong showing on Sunday unless Briere is in Ruff's doghouse. In no uncertain terms, that would spell disaster for Buffalo. With the series tied 2-2, this is a critical game. Puck drop at 7:30 Sunday.