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Lindy knows heat is on Canada

Lindy Ruff and his Olympic-bound players will take off for Vancouver Sunday morning. And while Ryan Miller is the key guy for a U.S. team forecast by many to not be a medal contender, Ruff is an assistant coach of a team expected to be in the hunt for goal. Fans in Canada will demand it, especially on home ice.

"I know the players are prepared," Ruff said today. "They're looking forward to the challenge. We've got the best players that have to play in every pressure situation inside every game. Every one of these players is a key player on every team. They play in situations where it's 2-1, 2-2, 3-2. They're the ones playing in it all the team.

"We've talked about it as a group that everyone understands for Canada that it's gold or bust. It's a headline that's been written so you deal with it and you move on."

Ruff said he watched Friday's opening ceremonies at home and said it added to his pre-Olympic feeling knowing that the Games are in his home country.

"Just the fact it's in Canada and that production is always an incredible production, I thought they really did a tremendous job with it," he said. "I thought the greatest part was the torch coming in and the guy in the wheelchair coming in (parlympic athlete Rick Hansen). That was incredible. Just that part alone really gives you the spirit of all types of athletics."

Then Ruff was asked if there was any trash talk yet with Miller in advance of the teams' showdown next week

"Not yet," said a grinning Ruff. "Maybe on the flight tomorrow."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Lindy takes the floor

The Sabres' practice in HSBC Arena opened today with the usual skating and stretching. Then the players headed to the wipe board on the glass like they always do to go over the day's agenda. But Lindy Ruff had other things in mind. What's normally a 60- or 90-second chat turned into a five-minute speech and it was clear drills weren't much on the coach's mind. Stick in hand, Ruff was waving his arms and banging it on the ice. Even banged the boards once. Let's see if his words have any impact when the Bruins hit town Tuesday night.

(By the way, don't look for film at 11 from Ruff's speech. Oddly enough, three local affiliate cameras walked in a few seconds after the meeting broke up. One was in the bench but not shooting. They all missed it).

As for practice, Steve Montador and Patrick Kaleta are missing. Montador was injured during a fight Saturday in Columbus. (Post-practice update: Ruff said Montador might take the morning skate Tuesday. The defenseman injured his hip just before the fight and not during the actual battle with Jared Boll). 

No changes on the forward lines either. It's still Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Vanek-Roy-Stafford, Grier-Kennedy-MacArthur and Mair-Gaustad-Ellis. D pairs are Myers-Tallinder, Butler-Rivet (who got back together for a good chunk of Saturday) and Lydman-Sekera.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Lindy lets 'em have it

It's been a kinder, gentler Lindy Ruff for the most part this season. Will be interesting to see if that holds at practice Tuesday. Ruff used the word "embarrassing" several times after Monday's 3-0 loss to New Jersey and had a few other pearls in the 3 1/2-minute meeting with the media you can listen to below.

Because the game was on Versus, there was no MSG postgame show so many of you normal postgame presser viewers didn't get your fix. This one is worth it. My favorite crack might be when Ruff said he sent his team to the exercise bikes after the game, noting, "We'll put some work in after the game if you don't want to work during the game."

Ouch. You can hear Ruff and Ryan Miller below. Scroll over the audio you want to hear and click the arrow on the left to start the file.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Ruff

Miller


 

Inside the lines

The Sabres are boarding their plane for Nashville today with a few new line combinations.

After averaging 1.5 goals in the first two games coach Lindy Ruff is looking for an offensive spark.

Ruff has reunited the line of Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. He has moved Tim Connolly to center, between Clarke MacArthur and Jason Pominville. Tim Kennedy practiced in the middle of Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier. Finally, Paul Gaustad skated with Matt Ellis and Patrick Kaleta.

---John Vogl

It's NHL Preview Day

Be sure to pick up a copy of today's NHL Preview section, our 12-page look at the Sabres and the league heading into the 2009-10 season. It starts with the full-page cover illustration of Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier on what could be their final (Zamboni) ride at the helm of the Sabres. Hysterical (Kudos to Dan Zac).

Darcy-lindy

Realizing many loyal Edge readers/contributors are out of town, here are links to the key highlights.

The entire section can be found here.

John Vogl's cover story: The fans are getting antsy and it might be last-chance time for Lindy and Darcy.


Vogl's team preview: It's about building from within.

Bucky Gleason column: Pominville hopes to increase the population.

My look at Derek Roy: He needs to take a step up.

Getting the point: How do the Sabres get over the playoff hump?

Alan Pergament: Some road games in HD. I say all of them should be but that's another story for another time and, Pergament points out, the Sabres are not contracturally obligated to bring them all in HD.  

Team previews: If you go on the main preview page, head to any of the 30 team links on the right side for Bucky's take on their strengths and weaknesses.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Around the boards

Lots of news to view in a skate around the league:

--A knee injury will keep Blackhawks forward Adam Burish on the shelf for six months.

--Just as Marian Gaborik made his debut, the Rangers learned that Sean Avery's knee injury may keep him out of the season opener.

--Ex-Sabre Mike Ryan is trying to crack the Hurricanes' lineup and not end up back in Albany of the AHL.

--Jamie Arniel, the 19-year-old nephew of ex-Sabres assistant Scott Arniel, is making a strong bid for a spot on the Bruins' roster.

--It's a major day in the history of the Islanders, whose future on Long Island might hang in the balance today. The team is in the midst of daylong zoning hearings at Hofstra University to get its controversial Lighthouse project off the ground and Newsday is live blogging the whole thing. The project includes a complete renovation of antiquated Nassau Coliseum. Meanwhile, the team is meeting the Kings in an exhibition game in Kansas City's Sprint Center, long rumored to be a potential site for the franchise to move to.

--Meanwhile, the folks in Kansas City aren't happy that John Tavares is not playing tonight. The crowd is only supposed to be in the 10,000 range and there's been plenty of discounted tickets available.

--Chris Neil settled an old score for the Senators with Steve Downie.

---Mike Harrington

Make your call for Sabres Hall

The Sabres Hall of Fame Committee has named six nominees for the team's highest honor and will cut that list to a final four before deciding on its inductees in the next couple of weeks.

The list of six includes former players Dominik Hasek, Jim Lorentz, Alexander Mogilny and Rob Ray, current broadcaster Rick Jeanneret and former coach Joe Crozier. Lorentz and Ray, of course, have also served the team as broadcasters.

Dave Andreychuk and former PA announcer Milt Ellis were inducted last year. (Memo to Sabres Alumni group: Update your Web site).

If you were on the Sabres Hall Committee, make your choices at our poll. I would guess no more than three of the final four will be inducted.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)



It's Draft Day ... do something

Hold me back from the excitement surrounding the NHL's annual gathering of guys who won't play for your team next season. It starts tonight at 7 in Montreal with Round 1 on Versus and the NHL Network, then continues Saturday morning at 10.

As I wrote this morning, Darcy Regier needs to start taking some bold moves and maybe he'll surprise us all and do something. Or maybe it will be more of the same for the Sabres, which is just about nothing. John Vogl is on hand in Montreal, and writes about how prospect Evander Kane knew he was NHL-ready thanks to his battles with future Sabre Tyler Myers.

Vogl also heard from Lindy Ruff for the first time since the end of the season, as Ruff spoke on his appointment as an associate coach for Team Canada's Olympic team and the disappointment of missing the playoffs for a second straight year.

Thoughts on Regier? Thoughts on Ruff's comments? This is the place for them. We'll have full coverage of the draft this evening with Vogl on hand in the Bell Centre and yours truly filling the blog from One News Plaza.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Lindy going to Olympics

Lindy Ruff is getting his shot at Olympic glory.

The Buffalo Sabres coach will be named as an assistant for Canada's 2010 Olympic team Thursday, CTVOlympics.ca has reported. Ruff will help head coach Mike Babcock along with Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Lemaire.

Ruff's first chance at international competition came this spring as the head coach for Canada's world championships team. Ruff earned a silver medal in Switzerland.

The coaching announcements will be made at 10 a.m. in Montreal near McGill University, where Babcock played. The 2010 Olympics will be held in February in Vancouver.

---John Vogl

Rene Robert sounds off

In Sunday's Inside the NHL, Sabres legend Rene Robert tells Bucky Gleason he feels your pain.

Gleason writes:

"The only difference between you and him these days is, well, the former right winger played on one of the famed lines in NHL history and his No. 14 hangs from the rafters at HSBC Arena.

"Well, it's up there for now, anyway.

"To say he's frustrated is an understatement. Robert has grown increasingly angry and disgusted from watching his former team, your favorite team, miss the playoffs in two straight seasons after building a contender. He also wanted fans to know they weren't alone."

Lindy Ruff: Keep or fire the coach?

Here's some thoughts for and against. Now you decide.

Sabres poll: The blame game

In last week's poll, we asked you to predict who would take the fall for what could become the Sabres' second straight non-playoff season. While the players rated highly, Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier also took their hits. In Sunday's Inside the NHL column, Bucky Gleason examines the role of ownership in the current situation.

Some of you wanted to pin blame on Tom Golisano or Larry Quinn in last week's poll but they're naturally not getting fired. But given a new question, is most of your ire still directed in the same spot or does it move higher up the Sabres' food chain?

Sabres poll: Who takes the fall

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows the heat is on more than any time in his career in Buffalo.

 In today's Buffalo News, Ruff told Bucky Gleason: "When you're not going well, they'll point to the coach. I think it's fair. We've had some players who haven't performed to where we want, and that's my responsibility. I don't think there's any ducking that."

Who takes the blame if the Sabres don't make the playoffs?

Sully on Lindy: 'Wishy-washy' team reflects its coach

News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan says Lindy Ruff has been "a little wishy-washy" at times this season. In fact, Sully says, the team's mediocre play is certainly a reflection of its coach -- much like the Bills' softness has reflected Dick Jauron.

For his full take, go to the Sully on Sports blog.

Ruff night for Lindy

Lindy I expected the comments on our Sabres-Thrashers live blog to be pretty rip-roaring and I'll give it up to you folks because you didn't disappoint. Lots of insight, lots of raw venom, lots of quick quips too. Some excellent Sunday reading.

Maybe I'm egging on all of your ire but I wonder how many of you read Bucky Gleason's Inside The NHL column in Sunday's paper. In it, Bucky learns exclusively from minority owner Larry Quinn that the Sabres are expected to keep Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier next season even if they miss the playoffs for the second year in a row and for the fifth time in seven years.

Would love to know, however, what Quinn thought about Ruff after Saturday night's debacle. We've all seen coaches get fired in this league for far less than blowing a two-goal lead at home to the Thrashers in the final six minutes with the tying goal scored in the last four seconds. Maybe Quinn & Co. can say that's a fluke that never happens happens much. Oh, wait a minute, it happened to the Sabres Dec. 27 against the Islanders too. Also at home. Thrashers and Islanders. Not like letting the Bruins and Caps come back on you now, is it?

I wanted to see some real anger from Ruff after last night's game. But he seemed as defeated as his team. He tried to say the Thrashers didn't have any real good chances in the last minute, which was true. There were no shots on goal until Ron Hainsey's point drive. But the Sabres never got the puck out of the zone for the entire final minute either. It looked like that 76-second shift in Philly last month. How many weak clearing passes will this team make? When is sombody going to demand the puck in the final seconds and get it out of the zone?

Here's a novel thought: When is this team going to take advantage of somebody's empty net?

Why do we keep seeing soft plays from the likes of Jason Pominville, Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman late in games? How about Craig Rivet or Paul Gaustad on the ice in the late going instead? Dominic Moore? Bad clearing attempt and then got run over in the corner. No help.

Who puts guys on the ice in the late going? Ruff. You can crab about Regier not doing much at the deadline (cue up the "they sure missed Kotalik in the shootout" cracks) but this one was on Ruff. What should never happen has happened twice in the same season against lousy teams.

Yes, the Thrashers are lousy. Don't tell me about their winning streak. They're 13th in the East, they were 48 hours removed from a game in Edmonton and their best player was home hurt. Ruff tried to say the Sabres played a strong game offensively. What was he watching for the first 34 minutes? I say they did nothing until Derek Roy woke them up.

Yes, the Sabres got a point. Yes, they lost ground to no one in the East Saturday. But Ruff certainly didn't distinguish himself at the end of this one. Or after it. He should be happy the owners and the GM -- and, frankly, many of the fans -- have his back. Because lots of coaches are sent packing for a lot less than what we're seeing.

---Mike Harrington

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Decisions, decisions

Lindy Ruff is getting closer to having a problem every coach would want. Drew Stafford and Maxim Afinogenov have been cleared to play tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens, but that doesn't mean Ruff is going to insert them into the lineup.

Ruff has a history of not making changes after a victory. The Sabres are coming off an 8-4 victory over the Nashville Predators. It's why he was leaning toward not touching a thing.

In practice today, though, the Sabres had some interesting line combinations. Derek Roy was between Thomas Vanek and newcomer Steve Bernier. Jochen Hecht was with Ales Kotalik and Jason Pominville with Afinogenov also wearing the same jersey. Paul Gaustad was with Daniel Paille and Stafford and Clarke MacArthur was between Andrew Peters and Patrick Kaleta.

Tim Connolly and Adam Mair sat out the workout, and Hecht left early while still nursing a pulled groin muscle. If everybody is healthy, does Lindy take out Peters and/or Kaleta on his fourth line, giving him four skilled lines but less grit? Or does he keep toughness in his lineup and go with more skill?

It could depend on the opponent. No matter, the Sabres, assuming everybody can either get healthy or stay healthy, have plenty of options going down the stretch.

--- Bucky Gleason

Lindy's not shy

DULUTH, Ga. -- The Thrashers want payback for their 10-1 loss to the Sabres two weeks ago. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff doesn't care.

"We had lost enough games in a row that I didn't care at the end of the night if the score was 15-1," said Ruff, who's team was on a 10-game winless streak. "I don't think they were feeling sorry for us walking into the game. We certainly weren't going to feel sorry for them leaving.

"I think they're reaching for straws."

Here's the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story from that game. The Thrashers' feelings hadn't changed when I talked with them today. Should be interesting.

---John Vogl

Lindy's angry

PITTSBURGH -- The Sabres had better be mentally focused for their game in Pittsburgh tonight or that day off they were planning to have Sunday could go bye-bye.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told his players he was not happy during a team meeting this morning, and it was easy to tell when he met with the media afterward.

"There’s some areas of our game I was really disappointed in," Ruff said. "There was some mental areas where I was disappointed. I really think we need to improve. I wasn’t happy, and they know I’m not happy. I haven’t been happy for days about that, and I’m going to continue to grind on it."

He said some players, particularly his young ones, lost focus during the Christmas break.

"With younger players, it takes a while for preparation," Ruff said. "When they get away from you for two, three days, it makes it tough on you."

Then he ripped the line of Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov.

"I didn’t like the Roy line, even in the second and third period," he said. "I especially didn’t like some of the things they did in the third period. That’s part of the mental part of our game that has to improve."

"I had told them going in this was going to be a one-goal game. It’ll be a one-goal game. The guys that have scored for [New Jersey] in the last two games have been [Patrik] Elias and [Brian] Gionta, with an empty net. The first star of the game had been Elias the last two games. In a 1-0 game, you’ve got to win 1-0. I felt that even in the third period we lost focus of winning a game 1-0.

"I thought we handed them some glorious opportunities to get back in the game, that’s the part that bothered me."

In other news, Ryan Miller will again get the start in goal for the Sabres. Pittsburgh will go with Ty Conklin, the former Sabres backup who is 4-0.

---John Vogl

Bad choices, I swear

Lindy Ruff can be grumpy in the best of times, so it's not hard to imagine how he's feeling now. He proved it in practice today.

The Sabres were doing five-on-five drills, and they again commited a poor decision with the puck. You know, the ones they've been doing consistently, where the pass is intercepted at the blue line and the opposing team skates down ice on an odd-man rush.

Well, Ruff had had enough.

"You can't [expletive] do that," he screamed. "You turn the puck over there, we're [expletive]. We're [expletive]. We're [expletive]. I can't be any clearer than that."

No doubt, the message was clear. Whether it sank in, we'll have to see.

--John Vogl

Lindy and his new deal

When everyone last saw Lindy Ruff, the Sabres coach was speaking glowingly about his organization. He was announcing his new three-year contract extension, and he talked of how he never contemplated leaving because the franchise had a bright future. Buffalo, he said last month, offered the best chance to win the Stanley Cup.

When The News caught up with Ruff on Saturday night, a few things had changed. His captains were gone, and his GM had admitted the team would be less competitive.

We asked Ruff if he had the chance to do it all over again, would he re-sign with the Sabres so readily? Ruff didn't call for anyone to tear up his new deal, but he obviously had some reservations because all the talk of a bright future was gone.

"You know, hindsight is 20-20, but it's something that I'd rather not even comment on," Ruff said.

How about you? Should Ruff be upset that he signed with the Sabres -- at below market value -- just before his top two players left? Should he have seized the chance to be a free agent?

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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