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At the Rink blog

Schedule does Sabres no favors as they face Hawks

Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

CHICAGO -- The task doesn't get any easier for the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in the Windy City, when they come into a game against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m., NBCSP) with a franchise-worst nine-game road losing skid.

It will also be the second straight opponent that finds itself right in the mix among the best teams in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks will be looking to leapfrog the idle second-place St. Louis Blues and first-place Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division -- after the Wings did the same to the idle Hawks on Tuesday by winning a shootout in Dallas.

The lead changes in the Central Division and West standings are happening on a nightly basis again because there are a host of good teams battling it out. Over in the Eastern Conference, it's tight at the top but the Sabres aren't anywhere near that fight.

They're more concerned about sitting fourth in the Northeast and 11th in the East with 43 points -- seven back of the eighth playoff spot after getting blown out 5-0 Monday in Detroit.

"We're playing a dangerous team tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the Hawks' optional morning skate. "They're going to be ready and they're a desperate team. They've got a lot of ability. We'll have to make sure we check well and take care of that part of our game."

In terms of skill level and ability, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff could say the same thing of his Sabres' need to play the Hawks -- who are 17-5-4 at the United Center this season, including three straight wins on their home ice.

Ruff said Monday's blowout loss in Detroit might not have been entirely indicative of the effort the Sabres put into it, but rather the result of each mistake they made in an otherwise solid first period leading to three goals before the horn sounded.

"I've seen a lot worse games," Ruff told Sabres.com at Tuesday's practice in Chicago. "I've seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating. I've got to guard against (getting emotional) when I'm standing behind that bench, to let my frustration show. It's not a time to yell and scream, to rant and rave. We've had some discussions in the room, but my frustration can't show. I've got to be the guy that leads them through this."

Buffalo also held an optional skate at the United Center and Ruff will be available to speak with the media Wednesday afternoon.

The feeling after the Sabres' workout was that backup goalie Jhonas Enroth would get the start against Chicago. Buffalo also has a number of injured players who are still unable to play, which is another issue in their struggles.

Here's a look at how the Blackhawks and Sabres might line up on Wednesday night:

SABRES

Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Drew Stafford - Derek Roy - Nathan Gerbe
Luke Adam - Brad Boyes - Ville Leino
Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta

Brayden McNabb - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera/TJ Brennan - Jordan Leopold
Mike Weber - Marc-Andre Gragnani

Jhonas Enroth
Ryan Miller

BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Ben Smith - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild