The Morning Skate: Connolly return, Lupul Tweet fuel rivalry with Leafs

The first installment of The QEW rivalry has come a bit late this season. However, the return of Tim Connolly – a healthy Tim Connolly – and a happy Tweeting Joffery Lupul have stoked the fire a bit.

Lupul peeved many in Buffalo with his Tweet from last night. The obvious grammatical error aside, Lupul’s Tweet was reminiscent of comments made by Emerson Etem around this time last year. A bigger deal was made from the winger’s opinion than what really matters. Frankly, downtown Buffalo leaves quite a bit to be desired compared to most cities. Buffalo isn’t even in the same league as Toronto in terms of entertainment and attractions. Buffalonians have a lot of pride, it is noble that everyone stood up for the town after Lupul’s Tweet. Still, there are far too many improvements to be made downtown before anyone can truly say Lupul was out of line.

The return of Connolly is slightly more interesting regarding this evening’s game. Connolly has missed quite a bit of time already but is close to a point-per-game pace. The trade-off Buffalo followed through with between Connolly and Ville Leino is under the microscope thanks to the production of each forward. While it is unfortunate that Connolly is having a solid run compared to Leino, to think that Connolly’s play in Buffalo would have changed one iota is silly. Connolly’s act – like many other Sabres’ – grew stale at the end of his run here. Connolly will receive a hearty number of boos this evening and it should make things a bit more interesting.

Highlighted Matchup

The Sabres need a strong showing. Not one aspect of the game will be more important for Buffalo tonight. They have yet to put in a 60 minute effort at home and desperately need to right the ship. As the injury keeps rolling through the Sabres’ locker room, Buffalo will need to continue to find a way to create offense and win games. Their slide out of playoff position needs to be halted and a win against their biggest rival is the best place to start.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 15Gp 7-6-2, 2.81 GAA, .912 SV%

TOR: James Reimer 10GP 5-2-2, 2.75 GAA, .900 SV%

Last Game

3/29/2011, Air Canada Centre, Sabres 3 – Maple Leafs 4

Does Richards face additional discipline?

As I have settled down from the game six loss I have decided that breaking up my thoughts may be better than one long, rant-riddled diatribe on what made my blood boil this afternoon.

First topic is Mike Richards. I know that the war of words started between he and Lindy Ruff. I didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with either party on their opinions, so I kind of just ignored it. After all, I had been viewing this series as house money either way.

To be fair to the “level-headed” Philly fans, Richards did not deserve a major for his elbow to Pat Kaleta. It should have been a two-minute penalty. However, I think that he might need to sit a game for his hit on Tim Connolly.

Reason being, it is the type of play that the NHL is trying to eliminate. Sorry for the canned reasoning but I couldn’t look at it differently. It was a nasty hit and the shot from the corner shows Richards’ hand up pretty high on Connolly’s back. By my math, having his hands high on Connolly, driving his head into the boards (from behind) and the injury that resulted from the hit makes this a rather cut and dry case.

Of course it seems that the most obvious offenses are the ones the NHL seems to overlook. Also overlooked are big-name players like Richards. Those two factors might work against the Sabres in this situation. If he isn’t suspended it won’t be the end of the world. I don’t think losing Richards would adversely affect the way the Flyers play the Sabres, and vice-versa.

If Richards plays a major role in a Philadelphia victory in-game seven, you may have a case for missing the mark on a suspension.

Sabres vs. Flyers breakdown

The Sabres and Flyers get their series started tonight and many members of the media see this as one of the most even series of the entire first round. I’m not so confident in the Sabres ability to get past Philly. I certainly believe that they have the tools capable of pulling the upset. Of course, there is a reason the Philly was the second best team in the NHL for most of the season.

Why buffalo will win:

Ryan Miller. He has vastly improved his play from the beginning of the year. I feel that a great deal of that has to do with his workload and his health. He has played his best hockey since Jhonas Enroth has come up from Portland. If his extra rest has given him an edge then the Sabres will be in good shape. Continue reading