“We know we’re going to play hockey, and it’s going to be a best-of-seven series,” he said following Monday’s practice. “It doesn’t matter.”
Since eliminating the New York Islanders on Friday, the Sabres have been patiently awaiting the start of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which will take place in Buffalo on either Wednesday or Thursday. But until that opening faceoff, there’s nothing more they can do but continue to prepare for a Rangers team that swept the Atlanta Thrashers in their first-round series.
“The weather’s warm and the ice is getting chippy,” Miller said. “It’s definitely playoff time, and you just want to be around the rink.”
The Sabres aren’t taking anything for granted with the Rangers even though they defeated Jaromir Jagr and Co. in all four meetings between the two teams this season. Buffalo won two of those games in overtime, one in a shootout and the other after allowing the Rangers to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Though Buffalo swept the season series, coach Lindy Ruff won’t be dissecting the tape of those games over the next two days as he readies his team. All four of the games were played prior to the turn of the calendar year and before the Rangers started turning it on. New York has won 17 of its last 24 games, including the four-game pasting of the Thrashers.
“Things change, so you want to stay current,” Ruff said. “Down the stretch they’ve obviously been one of the better teams. They’ve had a more balanced attack and are a lot stronger team in their own end.”
The Sabres needed just five games to dispose of the Islanders, but Ruff wasn’t happy with how his team struggled at times. He said his team was backchecking too hard, leaving Buffalo vulnerable to the Islanders’ layered attack.
“We overskated in some situations that we’re trying to clean up,” he said. “When you’re playing against Jagr, the second guy coming back, we’d like him to eliminate (Jagr’s) ice, but we don’t need three guys. That certainly happened a few times in the Islanders series.”
Meanwhile, centre Tim Connolly left Monday’s hour-long practice 15 minutes early to get treatment on a tender hamstring that he’s nursing. Ruff didn’t want Connolly to aggravate the injury, and sent the centre off the ice so he could get a head-start in the trainer’s room.
“I didn’t need him skating in that last part,” Ruff said.
Connolly missed all but two games of the regular season because of a concussion sustained in last year’s playoffs. He has three assists in five games this post-season.