'This summer is shaping up to be another difficult one. Briere, Drury and Numminen spoke in vague terms about their contract situations — the injured Zubrus was unavailable to comment after the Game Five defeat — but Mair made his intentions clear. “My hope is that I’ll be back in Buffalo,” Mair said after getting eliminated from a conference final for the third time in his career. “That’s where my heart is, and that’s where I want to be. I don’t think it’s going to be too hard to get me.”'
'There’s not a winger on the team close to matching Zubrus’ work ethic and effectiveness along the boards. The Sabres need a couple more like him.'
'So will Buffalo fans recover from this latest loss? “For the fair-weather fan, there will be no difficulty dealing with this crushing setback,” said Melnick. “This fan has not invested heavily emotionally, psychologically or even physically. So if the team loses, this person can easily move on with his life.” The hard-core fan,” Melnick said, “is going to react to a crushing defeat more personally than the other end of the continuum. This fan has put more poker chips on the table. The hard-core fan has moved all his chips to the middle of the table, emotionally and psychologically.”'
'"We're not going to be a group anymore. After nine months, that is hard to take. And even teams that win, you know, like Carolina (in 2006), there are always changes, new faces. We know there are going to be changes here, and it's hard because you do build friendships and you battle with guys. "Ultimately I guess that's just the job we do and that's sports."'
'If championships were awarded for passionate fans then the city of Buffalo would have plenty of titles to boast of, but alas, that is not the case.'
‘The day after blowing what could be their last chance to win a Stanley Cup, the Sabres will look into the mirror and see the reason why they choked.’
‘Even if the cap increases this offseason, the Sabres won’t have much room to maneuver without sacrificing other parts of their roster. Briere completed a one-year, $5 million contract he received through arbitration — a decision that forced the team to release forward J.P. Dumont. Drury, meanwhile, is projected to double his $3.15 million paycheck. “We’ve got some time to discuss and think about that one,” Sabres owner Tom Golisano said. “It’s going to be a while.” And it might be a while before Buffalo sports fans embrace a group such as this.’
'The Sabres outshot the Senators in the third period, 11-3, but they were helped by five penalties called on the visitors. The Sabres took three penalties in the second period, none in the third.'
'“We don’t have any more games to play,” Sabres forward Derek Roy said. “We’re done. It’s a weird feeling. It’s not something we want to get used to.”'
'“He’s a tremendous player, leader, teammate, friend,” Connolly said. “He’s as good as they get out there.'
'“The difference between him last year and this year is tremendous,” Sens GM John Muckler said. “He came in leaps and bounds. He’s shown he can be a No. 1 goalkeeper.”'
'The sad reality is that the Sabres could already be a year removed from their best chance to win it all. This team is about to change, and chances are it’s not going to be for the better. This was the year.'
'But now, it must be doubly difficult to know he might let the town down again. Briere will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Prevailing wisdom in hockey circles says the affable Quebec native has played his last game in a Sabres uniform. Briere didn’t speculate on his future.'
‘“He’s been the example, the workhorse for the team,” said coach Bryan Murray. “One-on-three rush and he scores. Just fantastic.”’
'Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen hinted he isn’t ready to retire, but he’s aware he might have played his final game with the blue and gold. Numminen, who will turn 39 in July, ushered his three young children into the dressing room to pose for a photo in front of his locker stall.'