Afinogenov to return after Game 4 benching

Updated: May 3, 2007, 1:03 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ryan Miller figures a little fear won't hurt if it helps motivate the Buffalo Sabres out of their sudden playoff slump.

It didn't matter to the Sabres' goalie Wednesday that Buffalo was coming off its second straight loss and allowed the New York Rangers to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2.

Maxim Afinogenov
Afinogenov

Miller was encouraged by how Buffalo rallied in the third period -- scoring once and having a potential game-tying goal disallowed by a video review in the final seconds -- of a 2-1 loss at New York on Tuesday night.

"Well, we finally figured out that we need some desperation," Miller said. "It's like we were scared for once."

It's the way Miller believes the Sabres need to play as they take a two-day break before hosting the Rangers for Game 5 on Friday.

"How would you feel in life if someone's trying to take something from you?" Miller said. "There's people who just concede and hand it over. And there's people that fight for it. And I think we have to do a little more fighting."

The top-seeded Sabres are facing their first true test of adversity this postseason after needing five games to eliminate the New York Islanders in the first round.

Buffalo has lost two straight for the first time since going 0-3-1 March 7-13, and is enduring a sudden offensive slump.

The Sabres worked primarily on their power play in practice Wednesday. Coach Lindy Ruff also announced dynamic right wing Maxim Afinogenov will be back Friday after he was benched for Game 4.

Ruff was confident the Sabres can carry over the momentum they generated in the final period on Tuesday.

"I've got a lot of confidence in them," Ruff said. "First and foremost, they're angry with themselves before I even get to them. Now it's time to play."

The team that scored a league-leading 308 goals in the regular season has managed just two in a span of 156:43, including a 2-1 double-overtime loss on Sunday. And Buffalo's power-play is struggling in particular, going 3-for-25 against New York.

Until the final 11 minutes of Tuesday's game, the Sabres seemed stifled by an opponent that's been keen on stacking its own blue line to negate Buffalo's up-tempo transition attack.

The Sabres finally bulled their way through, with Ales Kotalik converting Tim Connolly's centering pass to cut New York's lead to 2-1. Buffalo nearly tied it seconds later when Thomas Vanek was set up in front.

Then there was Daniel Briere's chance with 17 seconds left, his shot appearing to cross the goal line just before Henrik Lundqvist managed to kick it out. A lengthy video review upheld the referee's initial call of no goal because there was no conclusive evidence the puck crossed the line.

Briere insisted he scored but refused to turn the ruling into a controversy.

"We just have to live with it," Briere said. "The last thing I want is us to be whining about it and saying how we didn't get a break."

The Sabres also understand they wouldn't have been in that situation had they played better in the first two periods.

"We can't change the way we played in the first period," Briere said. "We have to move on. We have to find a way to refocus and get going again."

The Rangers took Wednesday off. They're 4-0 this postseason at home, but need to find a way to win at Buffalo, where they've lost four straight -- including two regular season games -- and six of their past seven.

The Rangers haven't trailed since squandering two one-goal leads in a 3-2 loss in Game 2, and understand they didn't play their best in the third period Tuesday.

"We haven't accomplished anything," Jaromir Jagr said following game. "I am happy about the win, but I am not happy with the last 10 minutes of the game. We have to be smarter."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press