With four games on the docket this week, Monday was the Sabres' only real chance at an in-depth practice and Lindy Ruff put them through a one-hour workout at HSBC Arena that featured battle drills, skating and plenty of five-on-five work. All players were on the ice, including the injured Patrick Kaleta.
The biggest chance in the lineup came at center, where Jochen Hecht was moved to the top line between Thomas Vanek and former linemate Jason Pominville, with Tim Connolly moved down to the No. 2 line between Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. The new Hecht line first came together late in Saturday's 5-3 loss on Long Island.
"I thought Jochen with Van and Pommer played pretty well in the third period on the Island," Ruff said. "Maybe just a little different look for Tim, just trying to find a different way to get our even-strength goals up a little more."
At one point, Ruff stopped practice and railed, "How many times in the last two games have we given the puck away? ... We're not giving the puck away in the middle of the ice."
I resisted the urge to stand up, raise my hand and offer the answer, "seemingly dozens of times" to his first question.
Kaleta is seeing the doctor today about his injured hand and hopes to get clearance to play Tuesday when Montreal comes to town. Ruff seemed unconvinced: "He's a little bit limited as he is. He tried in the playoffs last year to play in the same kind of situation and it's not easy."
Rob Niedermayer remains stuck at exactly zero goals and has even had the indignity of having his name spelled wrong ("Neidermayer") on the back of his jersey the last three games. The team said its new set arrived with that mistake and it would be fixed tomorrow. Frankly, no one had noticed until the gaffe started showing up on Internet message boards and the media asked about it Monday. Even Niedermayer said he hadn't noticed.