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The Buffalo Sabres vs. Milan Lucic: Avenge or ignore?

Milan Lucic(notes) anticipated the questions as much as the hockey world anticipates his Boston Bruins' game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Did he intend to run Ryan Miller? Did he mock the Sabres for their lack of response in his postgame comments? Does he regret any of it?

Lucic handled them all as he had for the last 10 days. On Miller, he still says his focus was on the puck and not the goalie playing it.

On the Sabres: "I've always respected the Buffalo Sabres. I never called anyone a coward. I just said that we would have responded differently."

Does he believe someone will take him on in the rematch?

Lucic thought for a moment. "You know … yes," he said. "I'm not going to lie: Yes. We'll just see what happens. … That's what's going to make this game exciting.

"I've been through it before with Montreal. That's what makes the game fun. It's what makes sports 'sports.'"

So Lucic is ready for retribution. The NHL has discouraged it. What do the Buffalo Sabres, and their fans, expect to see in tonight's grudge match for the Northeast Division lead?

As was expected, the NHL has already stepped in to alert both teams "to not have any shenanigans tonight in the wake of the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller(notes) incident 11 days ago in Boston," according to the Buffalo News. That's after Sabres GM Darcy Regier and NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan(notes) had a discussion during the GM meetings about Coach Lindy Ruff's "irresponsible" comments regarding "open season" on goalies.

What was Ruff saying ahead of this revenge game? From Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News:

Ruff cut off a question about retaliation a few seconds later by saying, "I don't think Shanahan would like to hear that."

The media throng was large by regular-season standards, with several outlets from Southern Ontario joining Buffalo and Boston reporters. Many of the Sabres were already off the ice and in trainers' areas when reporters were allowed in, and no one spoke to the likes of Paul Gaustad(notes) and Patrick Kaleta(notes), the two likely candidates to do something with Lucic.

Pressed again on what the Sabres need to do tonight, Ruff said, "I'll answer the question one more time: We were disappointed in our response and that won't happen again."

Yet the chance to enact some vengeance on Lucic could be at loggerheads with the other goal here: Stopping a streaking Bruins team and making a statement on home ice about the Northeast Division title.

From Dave Davis of The Sabres Observer:

Even though Lucic and the Bruins aren't trembling in fear at the prospect of this rematch, they're certainly expecting that there will be some theatrics in front of a bloodthirsty Buffalo crowd tonight.  Truthfully, there isn't anyone on Buffalo's roster capable of giving the 6'3" heavyweight forward the beating he deserves.  If the Sabres really did want revenge, they'd be better off going after Thomas - and accepting the inevitable suspension that would come with it.

Alternatively, however, this is an opportunity for the Sabres to assert themselves as the superior team in the skill department.  The Bruins could be expecting their pride-stricken opponents to be unfocused and distracted.  You just know the officials are going to be all over this game, which could afford Buffalo the chance to put its 9th ranked power play to good use.

Joe from Buffalo Wins sees tonight thusly:

I think getting the win and not getting pushed around is all I ask for. If Boston plays physically, which we know they will, we need to try and match them. More importantly, we need to get respect. Respect doesn't have to be earned by having goalie fights. Beat them by 3 or 4 goals and you'll get their respect. Show you have guts and you can hit, and you'll get respect. Run them out of the building and it's R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I won't go crazy if the Sabres don't respond in a bunk house brawl type. I'll be annoyed as hell if they get blown out. Just learn from your mistakes. I'm just not going to beat my head against the table because The (stupid) Code demands of it. I don't need retribution, I just don't want another situation where our goalie is sitting there with his helmet off and seeing Tweedy birds around his head. If the Bruins punch you, you punch back. That's all I demand.

And the Bruins will punch. Is there another team in this League that'll bully you more at the first whiff of weakness?

We expect the Bruins to come out at the aggressor. Then it's up to the Sabres to show they've learned from their emasculating, embarrassing response to Ryan Miller getting bull-dozered. It's not enough to point up and say "scoreboard." Answer a physical team by speaking its language.

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