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Missed coverage earns Leopold spot on the sideline

by Chris Ryndak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As the Buffalo Sabres try to tighten up defensively, coach Lindy Ruff will make veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold a healthy scratch Tuesday, when the Sabres play host to the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center.

Buffalo has given up 33.8 shots per game, more than any team in the NHL. Only the Florida Panthers (56) have allowed more non-shootout goals than the 54 the Sabres have given up.

"It's not the first time I've ever sat and watched a game," Leopold said. "You learn from it. It creates a fire underneath you and urges you to get better."

In Buffalo's loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, Leopold failed to cover Pascal Dupuis in the third period and it led to Dupuis' game-tying goal. Mistakes like that are part of what led Ruff to change the lineup.

"That's a blown coverage," Leopold said. "Of course you say it's a five-man unit, but that's a pretty easy read for me. I didn't end up making it."

Leopold has one goal, three assists and a minus-7 rating in 16 games this season after leading the Buffalo defense with 10 goals in 2011-12.

TJ Brennan will dress in Leopold's place and get some time with the first power-play unit. Brennan has played in five games this season and is looking for his first point.

"The work he's done in this past week needs to show up on the ice tonight and he understands that part," Ruff said.

Drew Stafford skated on the fourth line with Cody McCormick and John Scott in the morning skate. Stafford scored his first goal of the season Friday against the Boston Bruins, but was a minus-2 with no points Sunday.

"It's more about focusing on winning battles, skating and getting to the net," Stafford said. "It doesn't matter who I'm playing with."

The Jets will play the first game of a five-game road trip Tuesday. They held an optional skate in the morning as they look to put a disappointing 0-3-0 homestand behind them.

Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said that being on the road for the next week can help improve team chemistry. Noel said he feels some players may be pressing too hard to create chances, so his job is to manage those frustrations and keep his team in a positive mindset.

"Biggest thing you want to do is not beat your team up," Noel said. "That's the first thing you want to do. You have to be sensitive to their ways. If you had a bunch of guys who didn't care, it would be different, but I certainly don't feel that's the issue. You want to keep things positive, keep things upbeat."

Defenseman Grant Clitsome will be back in the lineup for Zach Redmond. Clitsome likely will be paired with Dustin Byfuglien.

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo, and the Jets likely will counter with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who will play in his 200th NHL game.

Here is the lineup the Sabres likely will put on the ice Tuesday:


Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Jason Pominville

Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Patrick Kaleta

Nathan Gerbe - Jochen Hecht - Steve Ott

John Scott - Cody McCormick - Drew Stafford

Tyler Myers - Robyn Regehr

Christian Ehrhoff - Alexander Sulzer

TJ Brennan - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Mikhail Grigorenko, Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera

Injured: Ville Leino

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