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Richards' hit on Connolly brings calls for NHL inquiry

The way the Buffalo Sabres see it, they shouldn't have to deal with Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards in Game Seven.

Richards got a two-minute boarding penalty for drilling Sabres center Tim Connolly into the boards with 6:03 left in the second period Sunday. Connolly did not return and will miss Game Seven. The Sabres think Richards should be suspended and miss it, too.

Richards, remember, is the pesky center who accused the Sabres of "getting away with murder" following Game Four after he was assessed a major for elbowing against Patrick Kaleta.

Unprompted about the hit on Connolly, goaltender Ryan Miller broke away from talking to reporters about the game's result and turned the topic to Richards after Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss.

Said Miller: "If Mike Richards thinks we're getting away with murder, I don't know what he just got away with. Mass murder? Are we stepping it up a notch? Unbelievable.

"We lose a player for the rest of the game. That's the kind of hit the league has been talking about that's dangerous. They better seriously consider looking at that one. It's unbelievable."

Richards was not seen in the Flyers' locker room after the game. A Flyers spokesman said he would be available after coach Peter Laviolette spoke but when reporters returned to the room after Laviolette's session, they were told Richards had left the arena.

Connolly played just 9 minutes, 51 seconds in the game but played more than 22 minutes in three of the first five games while serving as one of Buffalo's chief penalty killers.

"Tim's not doing very good," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "That's something the league definitely has to take a look at. It's a lack of respect for another player on the ice. It's from behind. It's headfirst. That's a tough play. We lost a good player.

"We lose a good player. I think if the league looks at it the way I saw it on video, they may lose a good player, too. That'll be even, too."

Told Ruff's comments by a Philadelphia reporter as he was leaving the building, Flyers chairman Ed Snider shot back, "Oh, is he whining again?"

Connolly, of course, has a history of concussions. The Sabres would not reveal the nature of his injury other than to say it was upper body. Ruff said it would be wrong to assume this injury is another concussion.

Connolly was not seen in the locker room and had no comment when approached by a reporter as he was leaving the building. He was walking strong without anyone assisting him and did not look woozy.

* * *

The Flyers went 1 for 5 on the power play, getting Danny Briere's tying goal in the second period, but are just 3 for 31 in the series. They finished the regular season in a 5-for-41 slump.

The Sabres are 6 for 27, a big improvement from the 0-for-19 nightmare they endured in last year's playoff loss to Boston.

Thomas Vanek is the first Buffalo player with five goals in a playoff series since Chris Gratton had five against the Flyers in the first round in 2001. Four have come on the power play.

* * *

Defenseman Chris Pronger returned to the Flyers' lineup for the first time since suffering a broken hand March 8 but clearly remains limited. He played just 4 minutes, 33 seconds, all on the power play, and passed up taking any slap shots.

"I just wanted to give us a boost," Pronger said. "It was a lot easier than the 'bag skates' I was doing."

Asked if he was fully healthy by a Philadelphia television reporter, Pronger rolled his eyes and said sarcastically, "For sure. 100 percent," but added, "If I didn't think I can help I wouldn't play."

How did his hand hold up?

Cracked Pronger: "My back's a little sore from sitting on the bench."

* * *

The Sabres have outscored the Flyers, 11-5, in the first period but the Flyers have bounced back to outscore Buffalo, 8-2, in the middle period. It's 3-2 for Philly in the third and each team has an overtime goal.

Scoring first has been just about golden in the playoffs this year, but that went against the Sabres in Game Six. The team that scored the first goal had won all five games in this series and had a 32-6 record in the playoffs overall entering Sunday's play.

* * *

The Sabres fell to 32-27 in playoff overtime decisions, 20-13 at home. They have dropped three straight in HSBC Arena, dating to the pair of losses to Ottawa in the 2007 Eastern Conference final.

Buffalo had been 8-1 in playoff OT against the Flyers -- including 3-0 at home.

As for Game Seven, the Sabres are just 1-5 in their history, winning in 1997 over Ottawa on Derek Plante's goal. They are 0-4 in Game Seven on the road.

The game was Ruff's 100th in the playoffs and he is 57-43. Ruff is just the eighth coach in NHL history to coach 100 playoff games with the same team.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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