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Philadelphia Flyers' Danny Briere (C) is checked by Buffalo Sabres' Tyler Myers (57) and goalie Ryan Miller during the first period of Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Buffalo, New York April 24, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (Doug Benz/Reuters)
Philadelphia Flyers' Danny Briere (C) is checked by Buffalo Sabres' Tyler Myers (57) and goalie Ryan Miller during the first period of Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Buffalo, New York April 24, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (Doug Benz/Reuters)

James Mirtle

No love lost between Flyers, Sabres Add to ...

With so much else going on in the NHL playoffs, it's become a little bit of a forgotten series in the first round.

But the ninth postseason meeting between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres has had something for everyone - including more bad blood than any other series as they head into Game 7 Tuesday.

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There's been good goaltending (mostly from Ryan Miller of the Sabres) and bad (whoever the Flyers have played).

There've been big hits, questionable hits, squabbles in the media - including allegations of "whining" from both sides - as well as injuries, returns from injury, comebacks, momentum swings and calls for suspensions.

There have even been reports that Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta has been heckling two Flyers (Danny Brière and Scott Hartnell) over their recent divorces, a sign that little is offside when it comes to trash talk on the ice.

Add it all up and you have two teams that don't like each other very much, something that should be evident from the drop of the puck in the notoriously hostile environs of Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

"What would be a better place to win a Game 7 than to go into Philly?" Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I moved the flight up an hour."

"I just know that we can win there," added sniper Thomas Vanek, who leads Buffalo with five goals in the series. "We're not too worried about it. It's a place where we feel comfortable."

The biggest concern for the Sabres after blowing big leads in Games 5 and 6 is getting by without several of their top forwards.

Already an underdog in the series as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, Buffalo's disadvantage has become more pronounced the past two games after Jason Pominville was cut badly on the calf by a skate in Game 5 and Tim Connolly was hit from behind in Game 6.

Neither will be able to play in Game 7, leaving a cast of plucky youngsters such as Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe - both well under six feet tall - to fill in some of the gaps.

They also need much more from former 40-goal man Brad Boyes, as the Sabres' lone midseason addition has been invisible in the series.

Expected back in the lineup, meanwhile, is star centre Derek Roy, who suffered a devastating quadriceps tear in late December and was given a recovery time of up to six months.

Walking only with the use of a cane as recently as three months ago, Roy beat the odds to recover in time to play, although he's unlikely to be 100 per cent given all the time he missed.

A point-a-game player when he went down, he's desperately needed at this point to help the Sabres push on to a Round 2 date with the Washington Capitals.

"It seems like 12 months or longer," Roy said of his wait to get back. "Four years."

Even with Roy in the lineup, the Sabres will ice a group of skaters making a little more than $30-million (all currency U.S.) in Game 7, including a defence core that earns roughly what Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen took home this season ($7-million).

It's a far cry from the $54-million or so Philadelphia is spending on its many front-loaded deals, even if that includes a clearly ailing Chris Pronger on the roster.

Goaltending aside, Buffalo is the underdog in a big way, but that's nothing new for a group that only qualified for the playoffs on the 81st game of the regular season.

Eight games later, they have a second chance to eliminate the team that had the third-best record in the NHL this season.

"You just have to go out and put it all on the table," Miller said.

 

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