Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres

Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres
November 23, 2011, 7:06 am
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The Bruins actually know exactly whats going through the furiousminds of the Buffalo Sabres.

A majority of the players now on the Bs roster have lived through the same kind of emotionalcycle of shock, embarrassment, anger and retribution that Buffalo has been riding since Milan Lucic blasted Ryan Miller in a collision at the Garden two weeks ago. It's a Merry Go Round from Hell for any team that prides itself on teamwork and trust.

Lucic collided with the skinny goaltender in a game twoweeks agowith enough force to knock Miller to the ice, and ultimately the Sabres goalie exited the contest with a concussion thats kept him sidelined since then. But thats not the worst part.

The worstaspect ofthe entire incident was a damning indictment of the Sabres: Not oneof Millers Sabres teammates stepped up in defense of their franchise goaltenderafter gettingdumpedby the hulking left winger. There was plenty of harsh criticism centered around Buffalo center Paul Gaustad, who was out on the ice during the incident and never attempted to drop the gloves with Lucic in defense of his fallen goalie.Gaustad has 27 fights on his NHL resume, and dozens more at the minor league level before making it with Buffalo -- so it's a role he should have been happy to fill.

Lucic admitted he was surprised the Sabres players didnt come gunning for him in the remaining two periods of play during the first meeting between the two teams. The B's power forward poured more salt on the wound bystating "it would have been different" if that kind of thinghappened to the Bruins. Guys like Cody McCormick or Patrick Kaleta could be forced into pushing Lucic for payback, but true justice would be ifGaustad atoned for his lack of courage the first time around.

Ive always respected the Buffalo Sabres, said Lucic, who admitted he expects to be invited to fight Wednesday as an answer to his actions. I didnt call anyone a coward or anything like that. I never said anything along those lines. All I said is we would respond differently. Thats the only thing I said. I never pointed fingers at absolutely anyone.

The passion is what makes it fun. I know its a Wednesday night in November. It is a big game. A lot of people are talking about it. Theres a lot at stake with getting that first place in the division. I think even the fans here in Buffalo are going to be excited for it. I know were excited for it. Weve been looking forward to this game as much as they have. Its what makes this game fun.

But the whole Sabresteam took the blame, and their players, management and coaching staff admitted in the days following the incident that they failed one of the basic tenets of hockey: standing up for teammates when other players take bigliberties with them.

For the Bruins it was eerily reminiscent of the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard when the Bs players did nothing to make the Pittsburgh cheap shot artist pay for his blindsiding ways. Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke eventually did drop the gloves during the Revenge Game a month later that season, and that essentially evened things out in the mind of the players.The Bruins were crushed for their lack of response to Cooke's elbow as Savard lay motionless on the ice, and that's the biggest reason Lucic knows his teammates would never let it happen again. They've lived through embarrassment and shame that's become Buffalo's world this month.Gregory Campbell saw a parallel between the Cooke and Millerincidents from a reaction perspective, and the feelings of retribution being sought after by the wronged team.

This team has been in situations like that before. We go into games focused on winning and our nature is to play physical anyway, said Campbell. Its not really our area to worry about. It was an internal issue with their Sabresteam and they can handle it howeverthey want.

The Bruins players expect the same kind of scenario to play out Wednesday night in Buffalo, and perhaps there is even a run or two taken at Tim Thomas between the pipes. That would be interesting given that Thomas has shown a real ability to defend himself at his goaltender position, and the Bruins will be watching their goalie protectively.

Things shouldnt get too out of control on Wednesday night with the league watching closely and the Sabres not really known as a brawling hockey club, and it would be playing right into the hands of the Big Bad Bruins after all. But Sabres President Ted Black did go on 550 AM radio in Buffalo on Wednesday morning and answered "Realistically, yes" when asked point blank if expected at least one fight in the BruinsSabres game that also has Northeast Division bragging rights on the line.

Its not like you can go out there and be stupid. We were obviously in the same situation with the Cooke thing when he hit Savvy. If they want to get goofy then thats fine, said Andrew Ference. Our team is well-equipped for different kinds of games. It was a controversial hit and theyre obviously upset about it. Im sure they want some retribution and Lucic is fully prepared to answer to anybody that wants to get involved. If not then we just play.

There will be plenty of passion and perhaps even a good old-fashioned scrap Wednesday between the Sabres and Bruins.Maybe Buffalo will get their revenge, or maybe the B's will put the Sabres in their place because that simply isn't the Sabres preferred style of play. But those looking for a Slap Shot style gong show will be sorely disappointed when a hockey game -- not an alley fight -- ultimatley breaks out in Buff.