No one was anticipating Round 2 when the Northeast Division rivals meet at Ottawa on Saturday. But Peters, a forward, was still upset over Chris Neil’s blindside hit that left Sabres co-captain Chris Drury bloodied and woozy, and sparked a five-minute melee that led to 100 minutes in penalties.
“I’m still a little bit ticked off about the hit,” said Peters, one of three players ejected because of the fight that involved 12 players, including both goalies, and replayed constantly on TV across the continent.
“You hate to see your teammate go down like that,” he said. “But as far as case closed, once something like that happens, it creates a rivalry.”
Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said the tension is still there.
“I probably would say, `No,’ that it’s not over with,” Campbell said. “I’m sure they’d be saying the same thing. But you just move on and see what happens.”
Senators coach Bryan Murray isn’t taking any chances of another fight taking place. He plans to have tough-guy Brian McGrattan in the lineup Saturday.
Murray was unhappy with Sabres coach Lindy Ruff for putting his fourth line out against the Senators’ top line for the face-off after Drury was hurt. The brawl started shortly after the puck was dropped when Buffalo’s Adam Mair cross-checked - then punched Jason Spezza - while Peters grabbed Ottawa’s Dany Heatley across the face from behind.
Asked if his decision to dress McGrattan - a healthy scratch for the previous nine games - was an attempt to send a message to the Sabres, Murray said: “It depends on how they take it.”
What’s clear is that Drury is out indefinitely, experiencing concussion-type symptoms. He also required 20 stitches to close a deep gash across his forehead, the result of landing headfirst after being hit by Neil early in the second period of Buffalo’s 6-5 shootout victory Thursday night.
Neil was not penalized and, after the game, said the hit was clean and Drury should have had his head up.
Ruff disagreed, noting Drury had his back to Neil and didn’t have the puck after snapping a shot on net.
“It was a predator-type of hit where Chris was vulnerable,” said Ruff, who got into a heated shouting match with Murray during the brawl. “Neil went out of his way to deliver a blow to Chris’ head. It was a deliberate attempt to put somebody out.”
Ruff urged the NHL to take action against players taking blows to the head.
The league has not issued any statement or handed down any suspensions or fines for what happened Thursday.
But NHL officials are expected to keep a close watch on what occurs Saturday. The league is very sensitive about players attempting to get retribution on their own after then-Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi served a 17-month suspension for attacking Colorado’s Steve Moore in March 2004.
The Sabres and Senators rivalry has intensified over the past two seasons, in part because both teams have emerged among the Eastern Conference’s elite. Ottawa won the Northeast Division title last year, finishing three points ahead of Buffalo. This season, it’s the Sabres’ turn, with Buffalo 13 points ahead of the second-place Senators.
It doesn’t help that Thursday’s game was the 20th meeting in 18 months between the teams - including last year’s second-round playoff series, which the Sabres won in five games. Saturday’s game is the last of an eight-game season series, with Ottawa holding a 4-3 edge.
“I think everybody outside the game, the fans, the media, everybody really gets excited about what could happen,” said Buffalo’s Martin Biron, who was also ejected with Ottawa’s Ray Emery, after the two goalies squared off at center ice. “But the players have to focus on the game.”