By Mike Harrington
The Sabres practiced for nearly an hour this afternoon in First Niagara Center on what was supposed to be a day off. Coach Lindy Ruff approached team leadership and they agreed (at 3-6-1, what could they really say?).
"For us, it's education," said goalie Ryan Miller. "I don't think it's a punishment day. It's not a you-guys-need-to-wake-up day. We need to learn, spend some time in the classroom so to speak."
(6:30 p.m. update -- As I mentioned earlier today, the new CBA seems to say teams can't do this sort of thing. A PA spokesman just e-mailed me to say the association is reviewing the matter).
The Montreal Canadiens are here Thursday, the Sabres travel to Long Island Saturday and host Boston Sunday. They're 14th in the East and could be last overall in the NHL based on other results as soon as tomorrow night.
Ruff said he chatted with owner Terry Pegula Wednesday morning -- saying only "we talked hockey" -- and admitted he knows what the fanbase is saying. And what might be said if these next three games go poorly for his team?
"We need to win games," the coach said. "We need to win them now."
"It's definitely not lost on us that we need to play better hockey. But I don't think now is the time to start panicking," said Miller. "It's time to keep building."
---The Sabres spent much of practice working on coverage on faceoffs after they're lost, which the team is doing 59 percent of the time. At one point, if the defending team gave up a shot, all of its players had to do pushups -- including the goalies.
"We chased the puck 70 percent of the time last night because we didn't win a draw," Ruff said of the 4-3 loss in Ottawa. "That's a big deficit to come back from because we've got to try to defend and get it away. We get it 30 percent of the time, they get it 70 percent. That's hard hockey. Our faceoffs have to get better."
---Ruff said the team will try to find backup goalie Jhonas Enroth -- who hasn't won in nearly 15 months -- extra work in practice and before games. "He's got to work his way out of it. It's like a goal scorer. They need that one game to feed off."
Recapping the injuries:
Mike Weber (undisclosed): Ruff said it was a "maintenance" day, which usually means the player is available the next game.
Christian Ehrhoff (undisclosed muscle): Did not skate Wednesday, doubtful for Thursday.
Andrej Sekera (bone bruise in ankle): Still not skating but able to exercise and improving.
Robyn Regher (ankle): Skated hard on his own for about 20 minutes before practice.
Patrick Kaleta (neck): Skated as an extra forward but said he was ready to play tomorrow if needed. Ruff said Kaleta may not yet even be cleared for contact. "He always wants to play. That's a good thing. Give him credit," Ruff said.
Click below for full audio from Ruff, Miller and captain Jason Pominville:
taggedJason Pominville | Lindy Ruff | Ryan Miller