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Ruff: No time for Sabres to let up now

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Maybe coach Lindy Ruff now has the Buffalo Sabres' attention.

Unhappy with his team's performance of late, and with two weeks left in the regular season, Ruff put the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres through a grueling 90-minute practice Monday: a not-so-subtle reminder that this is not the time to let up.

"There were some parts of our game I was embarrassed about," Ruff said, still stewing over a 4-1 loss at Toronto on Saturday. "We're not going to hide from it. We're not happy with the way we played."

It didn't matter that the Sabres split the home-at-home series with the Maple Leafs or have registered at least a point in six of their past seven games, going 4-1-2 over that stretch.

Ruff was more disturbed that the Sabres were out-shot 79-54 during the two-game series, and would have lost both had they not rallied from a three-goal third-period deficit to pull out a 5-4 win Friday.

"Every game has playoff ramifications," said Ruff, who's team has a chance to finish first in the overall standings for the first time in franchise history. "We need to answer the bell because that's the type of hockey you're going to need to play going into the postseason."

Message received.

"Hopefully, it's the last one," co-captain Chris Drury said. "I think the overall theme was, 'You're not going to win them all, but you certainly can control your effort, your focus and competitiveness.' We lacked that for a big chunk of six periods this weekend."

In the only NHL game Monday night, Detroit blanked Anaheim 1-0.

The Sabres have seven games left, starting with a home game Wednesday against New Jersey, which has 96 points and is tied with Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead. With 103 points, Buffalo is five ahead of Northeast Division rival Ottawa and tied with West-leading Nashville for first overall.

By finishing first, the Sabres would gain home-ice advantage through the playoffs. The added benefit would be Buffalo entering the postseason on a roll.

"This isn't a situation where we should be letting each other off the hook," goalie Ryan Miller said. "I think there were some situations where we weren't competing hard enough."

Miller's comments echoed those he made immediately following the loss Saturday, a game in which he was pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals on 21 shots.

"I was a little ticked off after the game," Miller said. "Maybe I went a little too far, but I think everybody would say that we didn't compete hard enough to a man. And sometimes you've got to voice your opinion."

"He was right," co-captain Daniel Briere said, referring to Miller. "We didn't play very well in front of him those two games."

Ruff said he wasn't aware of Miller's outburst. But he didn't disagree with his goalie.

"It's OK to be angry," Ruff said. "As long as the player takes care of his area before speaking out, I'm OK with that. ... Everybody should be upset with what went on in those two games. And he should be one of them."

Dominik Hasek made 25 saves for his seventh shutout of the season and 75th overall, and Pavel Datsyuk scored to help host Detroit snap a four-game losing streak.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 27 saves for Anaheim.

The Red Wings have already clinched a spot in the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season. That's the longest playoff streak in North American professional sports. The New York Yankees are second with a 12-season playoff streak.

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