The Flyers and Sabres will face off tonight in Wells Fargo Center for game seven of their eastern conference quarterfinal series. This is the first game seven between the Flyers and Sabres in nine postseason meetings. The Sabres failed to close out the Flyers on their home ice over the weekend, as they allowed the Flyers to come back from a two goal deficit twice en route to an overtime win. Now they'll have to win a game seven in front of what promises to be a raucous Philadelphia crowd.
As intimidating as that may sound, there really hasn't been much of a home ice advantage in this series. The Sabres stole game one in Philadelphia while the Flyers took games in Buffalo. Historically, the Flyers are 8-6 in game sevens while the Sabres are just 1-5.
Both teams will be without key players for the deciding game. Buffalo will be missing Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly, who was injured on a hit by Flyer captain Mike Richards, a hit that Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said was dirty.
"The guy who was complaining the most about how we were getting away with murder has delivered two of the dirtiest hits in the series," Miller said. "A blatant elbow to the face, that is something that the league said they were going to try and take away, and driving Tim Connolly head first into the boards.
"It wasn’t just a hit it was a push. It was blatant."
The NHL's disciplinary arm didn't even deem the supposedly "blatant" hit worthy of a second look. But obviously Miller is engaging in some gamesmanship here and his complaints reflect the level of animosity that has built up between these teams in this series. The Sabres will somewhat surprisingly also be without tough guy Patrick Kaleta, who has been one of their chief agitators during this series and the guy who scored the winner in game one.
The Flyers will still be without Jeff Carter, who picked up a knee injury earlier in the series. They will have Chris Pronger however, who played limited minutes in game six, but expects to see a larger role in game seven.
"He has been there and he knows what it takes," Flyers forward Claude Giroux said. "Any time you’ve got a guy like Pronger in your lineup, you are going to feel more confident."
It looks like Brian Boucher will get the start between the pipes tonight with Sergei Bobrovsky his likely backup. That means Michael Leighton is out after his dreadful game six performance. It also marks the fourth different starter/backup combo Peter Laviolette will have gone with this series. Boucher says that overall, he thinks he's played well.
"I feel like I have had a solid series, aside from three minutes," Boucher said. "So, I feel good about my game."
On the other end of the ice, Ryan Miller has been just as likely to pitch a shutout as he's been to allow five goals... but he's got the ability to take his game to a level that the Flyers goalies have not shown to this point. The Flyers will be hoping the bad Ryan Miller (and bad Sabres D) shows up tonight. If not, Boucher is going to have to turn in the performance of his life if the Flyers are going to advance.