|Buffalo's Chris Drury is focused on now, not February. (BRENDAN McDERMID/REUTERS)|
Sabres, Senators have fighting spirit
Dressed in black and wearing a frown to match, ever-brooding Buffalo Sabres cocaptain Chris Drury made it clear yesterday that his focus was on the future and not the past.
Drury wasn't in the mood to entertain questions about what happened in February, when he was knocked out and bloodied by Ottawa forward Chris Neil's blindside hit. And forget the bad blood that exists between the Sabres and Senators as they prepare to open the Eastern Conference finals.
Drury was only looking forward to getting the best-of-seven series started in Buffalo tonight.
"I don't think I have a choice," Drury said. "If you get caught looking behind you, you're not going to be ready for the next challenge . . . It's our job to get mentally and physically ready for Game 1."
The Senators are prepared, too, although coach Bryan Murray was pleased to know there were enough story lines to keep everyone occupied this week.
"I think we all know the history," Murray said. "It's a matter of just playing now."
There's been plenty to discuss about the Northeast Division rivals. The series is a rematch from last year, when Buffalo eliminated Ottawa, the top-seeded team, in five games in the second round.
And then there's what happened Feb. 22, when Neil's check sparked a brawl between the teams. Drury downplayed the hit, even though he missed four games because of a concussion.
"I don't really have any feelings on it," Drury said. "For me, it ended when I stood up, got stitched up, showered up and that was it."
Neil was glad Drury wasn't seriously hurt, but added yesterday he wouldn't have done anything different.
"That's part of hockey," said Neil, who was not penalized on the play. "If that hit's there in the playoffs, I'm going to make it. It doesn't change my outlook on things. I've got to play physical. And I want them to be aware when I'm on the ice."
It should help the Sabres that they need little motivation.
"I don't think it matters that it's the Senators," goalie Ryan Miller said. "It's hockey. We've got to play."
In two of the previous three series, the winner advanced to the Cup finals (Detroit 1997, Anaheim 2003). Detroit coach Mike Babcock led the Ducks over the Wings in first round of 2003 playoffs during his first season as coach.
This is Detroit's sixth trip to the conference finals in 12 years, tying Colorado for the most appearances during that time.