The Big One
Usually, Game 5 of a playoff series is regarded as the critical, must-win game that often determines the ultimate winner.
But here's guessing that in the Buffalo-Carolina series, the critical match in Game 4 Friday night on the other side of the Peace Bridge.
The Sabres, having already stolen home ice advantage, can jump ahead 3-1 in the series with a victory, a margin they are not likely to lose based on their performances so far in the post-season.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, can re-acquire home-ice with a win, and then would turn the series into a best-of-three with two of the matches in Raleigh.
But it's more of a feel, really. Carolina looked so dominant in Game 2, then were so badly outplayed in the second period of Game 3 before storming back in the third.
If the Canes can't turn that late game push into a Game 4 triumph, they're pretty much done.
That said, the Sabres are running out of wiggle room. Even if they advance to, one would expect, play upstart Edmonton in the Stanley Cup final, they can't afford any more injuries to important players.
Yes, the Sabres are deep. But nobody's that deep. They can compensate for the absence of Tim Connolly, but injuries to Dmitri Kalinin and Teppo Numminen on the back end are putting a lot of pressure on Buffalo's No. 1 pair of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman.
One final thought. The Oilers might want to think twice about sweeping the Ducks in the Western Conference final and then having to sit back and wait for the winner of the Sabres-Hurricanes matchup.
New Jersey had a long wait between beating the Rangers and meeting the Hurricanes, and never looked quite as sharp after the break. The Ducks, meanwhile, waltzed past Colorado in the second round, and after an eight-day layoff, have never looked as impressive since in their battle with the Oilers.