PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference finals; Sabres lead 1-0.
The Hurricanes look to avoid a repeat of their opening round series against the Montreal Canadiens, when they lost the first two games at home. They took the next four in the series, though, with a change at goaltender helping spark the team.
“Whether you win or lose, you’re always preparing for the next one,” Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour said after the Hurricanes dropped Game 1, 3-2 on Saturday. “The minute this one was over we’re preparing for the next one. That’s all you can really do.”
Defenseman Jay McKee scored the game-winner for the Sabres, who have won five consecutive road contests.
“When you don’t score many goals during the season or through your career, it’s certainly a little more exciting when you do it in the playoffs,” said McKee of his third goal in 46 career playoff games.
Ryan Miller, who made 16 of his 29 saves in the third period on Saturday, has allowed only five goals in the last three road games, earning a 1.64 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage. The 25-year-old Sabres goaltender is one of two playoff rookie netminders in the series trying to lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals.
Carolina’s Cam Ward, who faced Buffalo for the first time in his career in Game 1, has lost two of his last three starts after winning seven in a row. The 22-year-old rookie gave up seven goals in the two losses after allowing just nine during the seven-game winning streak. He is 14-0 this season when holding an opponent to two goals or fewer in a game.
“The beauty of a seven-game series is that it is just one game,” said Ward after allowing three goals on 27 shots Saturday. “We’re going to try to learn from it and come out firing in Game 2.”
If Ward stumbles, the Hurricanes can revert to Martin Gerber. The veteran entered the playoffs as the team’s No. 1 netminder, but nine goals in less than four periods during the two losses to the Canadiens got him pulled for Ward.
Buffalo expects to be without Teppo Numminen after the defenseman left Game 1 with a lower body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
This series is the first between the Hurricanes, who were the Hartford Whalers from 1979-1996, and the Sabres, despite the teams being in the same division for 17 years—Adams (1981-93) and Northeast (1993-98). Carolina moved to the newly-created Southeast Division for the 1998-99 season.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Sabres - 110 points; 4th seed; beat Philadelphia Flyers 4-2, quarterfinals; beat Ottawa Senators 4-1, semifinals. Hurricanes - 112 points; 2nd seed; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-2, quarterfinals; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont, 6 goals; Daniel Briere, 9 assists; Briere, 14 points; McKee, 24 PIM. Hurricanes - Brind’Amour, 7 goals; Staal, 11 assists and 16 points; Mike Commodore, 23 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 14.7 percent (10 for 68). Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (56 for 65). Hurricanes - Power play: 25.9 percent (15 for 58). Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (52 for 61).
GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (9-3, 1 SO, 2.23 GAA); Martin Biron (no appearances). Hurricanes - Ward (8-3, 1, 1.89); Gerber (0-1, 0, 5.26).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: The Hurricanes claimed the first three games. The Sabres won the series and season finale on April 18, a 4-0 win behind 33 saves from Biron.