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Northeast: Slumping Sabres have lost the edge

by James Murphy
After a strong start to the season, the Buffalo Sabres are struggling. Tuesday's shootout loss to the Bruins dropped the Sabres into a first-place tie in the Northeast Division with the Ottawa Senators, who earned a 3-2 victory against Calgary.

The Sabres are just 2-7-2 in their last 11 games.

"It's not good enough," said Sabres forward Derek Roy, who scored the Sabres' first goal of the game, in the second period. "We have to go out and play a full 60 minutes to get two points."

"Bad start to the game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "For having a day off and then a practice day, I expected a lot more, especially in the first 10 minutes."

Goalie Ryan Miller, loser of his last five starts, said the team needs to relax and just play their game.
"I've had games where I've made mistakes and had shutouts this year. I've had some games where I've made mistakes and they've burned me," Miller told the Buffalo News. "I'm going to take it as they come, take it in stride and just go out and repeat. Everything evens out toward the end of the year. It feels big at the time.
"The big part of it is if you let things start to creep into your head, get uneasy and start to lose confidence as a team. That's exactly the wrong way to think. You have to believe that what you're doing is the right thing. You have to trust you have a good system in place."
Miller has allowed 15 goals during his five-game skid, with a 4.07 goals-against average and .874 save percentage. He still has very solid stats overall, with a 2.15 GAA and .931 save percentage. Miller thinks that he and his teammates just need to roll with the punches and realize that sometimes it's not as good as it seems and other times it's not as bad.
"We've had some games this year where we haven't been very good and we've won," Miller said. "And we've had a few games in this stretch even where I thought we've been really good and haven't got rewarded for some of our play."
Bruins avoid unhappy record -- The Boston Bruins avoided going down in team infamy and tying the 1924-25 team that holds the longest losing streak (11 games) in club history.
The Bruins entered Tuesday's game against the Sabres enjoying their first win since Jan. 14, a 3-0 win against the Canadiens on Super Bowl Sunday. Boston was 0-6-4 during their recent winless stretch, but coach Claude Julien saw positives in the games leading into Sunday, and they finally paid off in two points for the Bruins.
"We had played so well in the last four or five games that we felt cheated, in a way, that we played well enough to win and weren't getting rewarded with it," Julien said. "It's a matter of sticking with it. You hope that at one point that you get a break and things turn for you. We did get some breaks. Our goaltender was outstanding."
Goalie Tuukka Rask appears to have earned the No. 1 spot ahead of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who has struggled this season. His efforts in the win against Buffalo on Tuesday didn't hurt matters. He made 43 saves against the Sabres, and David Krejci scored the winning goal in the shootout.
After losing five straight in regulation as part of their 10-game winless streak, the Bruins (25-22-11) have picked up points in five of their last six games (2-1-3). Rask has made four straight starts for the Bruins, allowing only six goals during that span.

"Tuukka stood tall for us," Julien said. "He made some big saves, and he's been good for us. He's getting an opportunity to play some consecutive games and he's really taking advantage of it.

"We've been looking at the way he's played, and technically, he's been pretty sound," Julien said. "Even those last two games (prior to beating Montreal and Buffalo), he got us a point. The reason we didn't get two points is because we didn't do our job offensively. He's been good.
"Right now, we're at a stage where you've got to go with the goalie that's playing the best. I think right now he's playing the best. We know what Tim (Thomas) can do. Tim will be there at some point. There's no doubt. But right now, I think Tuukka's done a pretty good job."
New era in Montreal -- Bob Gainey has passed the leadership torch of the Montreal Canadiens, stepping down as general manager in favor of his designated successor, Pierre Gauthier.
"It's been a privilege to participate with the organization again in a different role," Gainey said in a press conference announcing his decision. "It's been fabulous. I'm very thankful for the opportunity. I've done my best. And now it's time for me to pass the torch."
Gainey spent his entire playing career in Montreal, serving as the captain for eight seasons and winning five Stanley Cups. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. He took over as GM in 2003, and the Canadiens were 241-176-46-7 during his tenure and made the playoffs in five of his six seasons. He will stay on with the team as a special adviser to the GM.
Gauthier came to Montreal as director of pro scouting in 2003 and then became assistant GM in 2006. Gainey believes in his former assistant and thinks he can get the Habs a 25th Stanley Cup.
"I'm leaving the team I love the most in the hands of the man I trust the most," Gainey said. "I look forward to assisting Pierre and the team in our pursuit of our 25th Stanley Cup."
The Canadiens' power play took a huge hit Monday with the loss of Marc-Andre Bergeron for 6-8 weeks with a leg injury suffered Feb. 4 in a 3-2 shootout win at Boston.
Spezza has hot hand -- Jason Spezza continues to roll, and so do the Ottawa Senators. Spezza notched the game-winner and added an assist and Brian Elliott made 27 saves as the Sens skated away with a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday. Since returning from a 20-game absence due to a knee injury, Spezza has 8 goals and 2 assists in an eight-game span.

"I'm just trying to get myself around the net and capitalizing on my chances," Spezza said. "The team is playing real well, and individuals do well when the team is playing well."

Spezza's latest goal came late in the second period and Elliott made two huge saves as Calgary pressed for the tying goal in the final seconds of regulation. It was a nice bounce-back performance for Elliott, who had been pulled from Saturday's game. Alex Kovalev and Jarkko Ruutu also scored for Ottawa.

"It didn't take us long to get back out on the ice and prove that we're the team that we are. We've just got to keep doing this on every night and not have off nights," Elliott said.

The Senators saw their franchise record 11-game winning streak snapped in a 5-0 loss to Toronto Saturday.
"You don't like to lose any games," forward Chris Neil said after the loss to the Leafs. "Any time another team embarrasses you like that, you don't take it lightly and you want to get right back at it the next night and play, but we didn't have that opportunity. I don't think we sat around and dwelled on it. We're a pretty mature group in here with a lot a veteran leadership, so we don't let that bother us too much."

"We've got to come out and play the way we had been playing. If you come out and work hard and play hard and stick to the system, you're going to win more hockey games than you lose. Hopefully we'll come out and get back to what we do well and come out on top."
Defenseman Erik Karlsson hurt his shoulder in a 3-2 win against Vancouver last Thursday and is out indefinitely.
Loss for Giguere -- Jean-Sebastien Giguere finally gave up a goal as a Maple Leaf Monday when he allowed three goals in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Those were the first goals Giguere has allowed and his first loss since becoming a Leaf on Jan. 31.
Giguere was named Second Star of the Week by the NHL after he became the first goaltender in Maple Leafs history to record shutouts in his first two games with the club. He stopped 30 shots in a 3-0 win against the Devils on Feb. 1, and another 30 for his third shutout of the season and 34th of his career in a 5-0 defeat of the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 5. Giguere is 6-9-5 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 22 games with Anaheim and Toronto this season.

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