You can argue semantics but Lindy Ruff clearly put the target on his chest even more with his big statement at the podium during Thursday night's Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Speaking in front of a packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency, Ruff said, "We are a playoff team. We will make the playoffs. ... You got to dig in, you got to belly up and there’s no quit in us and I’ll guarantee you that part. This team will be back and will be back hard."
When I asked Ruff after today's morning skate about the comments, he was quick to say, "I didn't use the word 'guarantee' [in association with making the playoffs]. I did not use the word guarantee." (My comment: Whatever, dude).
"I still believe and I firmly believe that we're a playoff team," Ruff said. "We are. Because I do. We've had some struggles. We had struggles last year. We started 8-1-1 and had some tough stretches. We're making it difficult because our struggle came right off the bat."
That's for sure. The Sabres are 30th in the NHL and 0-5-1 at home heading into tonight's game with Montreal. Their only worse home start in their history was went they went 0-7 in 1993-94. Asked about Ruff's words, here's some opinions from around the locker room today:
Paul Gaustad: "He has confidence in this room and he has confidence as a coach. It's got to be tough on him dealing with the media every day and he's done a really good job with us in the locker room and not pressing a panic button but we know we haven't played well enough in here. It's on us as players to perform better."
Derek Roy: "He believes in this team and that we're a good team. The players here believe in him and our own ability. We need something to turn the table here."
Jason Pominville: "Out of character [for Ruff] sure...But as players we all have to be out of character right now. He came out at the start of the year and said we can be a Cup contender and we feel we have the group to do that. Right now we're not close to where we want to be. We can only get better. Once you get in the playoffs, who knows what can happen. We want to build off one game, get a win and get in there. We always feel we can be a part of those eight teams."
Patrick Lalime will start in goal tonight. Ryan Miller did not take the skate as Ruff said he wanted to give him a day off. Ruff said Miller felt the same as yesterday but will not play this weekend and his return is no earlier than next week's trip to New York and New Jersey. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal's leading scorer, missed the morning skate with the flu and is questionable.
taggedSabres game day