Sabres stay alive
Sabres 3, Senators 2
Ottawa leads series 3-1
"We've been on a good little run, so you have to expect there'll be a bump in the road. When they got that early one it kind of shocked everyone, but we still like the position we're in."
"You have to carry that momentum into the next game. It's up to us to do it. We put ourselves in a situation where I don't think [the Senators] are going to want to go back and get in a Game 6 situation. But getting one [win] gives us the chance."
The most interesting thing about Wednesday night's game (and I'll confess I didn't see a ton of it) was just how dramatically Ruff shortened his bench, finally pinning his under-performing players to the bench and going with his studs now that his team is up against elimination.
And it worked.
Ruff severely limited the ice time of several forwards, with Ales Kotalik playing 10:39, Max Afinogenov 9:43, Thomas Vanek 8:21 and Dainius Zubrus 4:06, and the team's third defensive pairing entered the witness protection program, with Jaroslav Spacek getting 8:22 and Dmitri Kalinin just 4:23.
The Sabres coaching staff had been extremely liberal with ice time all season, and especially in the first three games of this series, and Vanek and Zubrus both averaged more than 20 minutes per game in those three losses. Afinogenov played 19:09, Spacek 17:09 and Kalinin 16:27.
In fact, only two Sabres averaged less than 11 minutes per game through Games 1 and 3 (Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair); seven fell below that mark on Wednesday night.
Ruff took a ton of criticism in the interim between Games 3 and 4 for sticking with the line-up that got him and his club to the conference finals, but one of the great things about having as much team depth as the Sabres do is that you can go with your hot hands. Ruff rode the likes of Brian Campbell (29:32), Henrik Tallinder (27:05) and Chris Drury (21:21) hard in Game 4, and especially in the late going, and he will likely do so again on Saturday afternoon.
And if the big guns continue to show up, just maybe we'll have the beginnings of a series.