Owner Terry Pegula's words in this morning's Buffalo News resonated in the Sabres' locker room prior to tonight's game against the Leafs, with players saying they appreciated his support in the wake of the Sabres' disappointing season (If you missed more from Pegula too, be sure to check out Bucky Gleason's blog post).
"What I know of Terry since day one is that he cares," said Thomas Vanek. "He cares just as much as all the guys in here. He's been supportive. He showed that in the offseason and he showed that with this room [the team's multi-million dollar locker room renovation]. I think he knows it's tough when you have injuries but at the same time, we still have enough guys playing who can play better, myself included.
It's good to hear that he's still behind us. I kind of knew he was. But we have plenty of guys in here to make plays."
Coach Lindy Ruff, armed with a longterm extension he signed in April, certainly appreciated Pegula's words too. But Ruff made it clear this morning he's ready to cast injuries as a reason his team continues to struggle.
"I still think nobody is happy. None of us are happy," Ruff said when asked about Pegula's comments. "You want to win and you want to win through any circumstances. I feel that right now, we're healthy enough to win. We've got enough pieces back that we're not going to blow anybody out but we're going to have to win some tight games. Yes, that [the injury bug] was a big factor. Never before had we had the number out. But right now, we're close enough to win games. We can eliminate any other excuses.
"We've been in some tough situations but we're not the only team. We've talked as a team that now's the time. We're able to keep some lines together. I think our defense is playing well enough as a group now. It will all start in goal, getting a big effort in goal and moving out forward from there."
Ryan Miller returns to the hot seat to play the red-hot Monster, Jonas Gustavsson, in goal tonight in a rematch of Tuesday's 2-0 win by the Leafs.
Derek Roy, who missed Tuesday's game with a shoulder problem, will play but Ruff admitted he may spot other players on certain faceoffs in place of Roy. Matt Ellis is the likely scratch at forward. The Leafs canceled their morning skate and opted to simply hunker down at the Embassy Suites on Delaware rather than come to the arena.
Guess that's more time for Joffrey Lupul to tweet pictures and make Buffalo cracks.