Niagara Gazette

Sports

April 25, 2006

Tough talk subsides before Game 3

Hitcock, Ruff backtrack after Monday's trash talking

When he came into a hallway near the visitors dressing room at HSBC Arena on April 7, Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock had the giddy look of a guy who’d dined and dashed.

His team had just beaten Buffalo 4-2, giving the Flyers their first win over the Sabres this season. He giggled and said the key was surviving an early flurry.

“I always worry about the first five minutes in this building,” he said. “Always.”

Hitchcock’s words seem prophetic after witnessing Game 2 of his team’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Buffalo. Not to mention printable.

The Sabres dominated visiting Philadelphia, scoring five goals in the first period en route to an 8-2 victory and a commanding lead in the best-of-seven series.

And Hitchcock’s post-game press conference had a decidedly different tone than the one on April 7. He was angry that Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said the Flyers played like “idiots” after the hosts got a big lead. And while leaving, Hitchcock dropped a pair of expletives, possibly in hopes of kickstarting his floundering team.

But the two kissed and made nice on Tuesday, with Game 3 in Philly’s Wachovia set for tonight (7 p.m., MSG).

“I apologize for using that word,” Hitchcock said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Ruff also backed off his comments.

“I’ve got to focus on my team and how I want them to play and that’s where it’s all going to lie,” Ruff said. “I was emotional, he was emotional. I’m over it.”

While Ruff is done thinking about Monday’s post-game circus, he must relish in the memories of the on-ice events. The Sabres have consistently proven to be the better team in the series, dominating the Flyers in shots in Game 1, and in goals in Game 2.

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