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Torres brings fresh perspective to slumping Sabres @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -With drops of sweat running off his nose after his first Sabres practice, Raffi Torres looked around the locker room and provided a fresh perspective on Buffalo's recent skid.

For Torres, it's a lot more exciting to be back in the playoff hunt than it was playing on a Columbus team that's all but fallen out of contention.

"I'm coming to a team that knows how to win here," Torres said Thursday, a day after being traded to the Sabres. "That's just it, I think these guys are professional enough, smart enough to know that they can win in this room."

Perhaps the eight-year NHL veteran forward's excitement can be infectious on a Sabres team that's suddenly lost its swagger and is questioning its confidence. Buffalo is in the midst of a 1-6-2 slump following a 3-1 loss to Washington on Wednesday. The Sabres (33-20-9), who host Philadelphia on Friday, are fifth in the Eastern Conference, but only a point behind Northeast Division-leading Ottawa.

"Hopefully, I can come in here and help out, pitching in along the way and try to liven it up around here," Torres said.

Torres was the Sabres' lone addition at the NHL's trading deadline, acquired for a second-round draft pick and sparingly used defenseman Nathan Paetsch. Buffalo also traded Clarke MacArthur to Atlanta for two draft picks.

Torres provides the Sabres a gritty forward who's capable of contributing on offense. His 19 goals this season immediately make him Buffalo's leading scorer. Torres also had 12 assists in 60 games this year.

"He's a big strong kid with a great shot," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It may take a little bit to breed familiarity with the other players. But we know what he brings. And I think what he brings can be a help for our team."

The Sabres offense has struggled, having scored more than two goals only four times in their past 13 games. Torres' grinding style should also offset the loss of center Paul Gaustad, who will miss at least a week with an injury to his right hand.

Ruff shook up his top two lines, installing Torres alongside Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Slumping winger Thomas Vanek was united with Drew Stafford and center Tim Connolly, the team's top setup man.

Though happy with the addition of Torres, Ruff cautioned it's too much to expect one player to shake the team out of its slump. He instead placed the responsibility on Buffalo's core players.

"You can't rely on one guy to come in and make the world of difference," Ruff said. "I think he can help, but I still think the strength has to come from the guys that have been here."

To emphasize his point, Ruff said he was scheduled to meet with Sabres team leaders later in the day.

Ruff spent much of the 45-minute practice focused on two areas where he believes the Sabres have been lacking: breakout drills and on-ice communication.

"Watching the game (against Washington) again this morning, I would swear that half the team had muzzles on," Ruff said. "I think we've proved it to ourselves as a team that when we have the support and we have that communication, we can come out of our own end as good as any team in the league."

Torres is on his fourth team since being selected by the New York Islanders with the No. 5 pick in the 2000 draft. Most notably, he was a member of the 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers, who lost the Stanley Cup finals to Carolina.

Eligible to become a free agent this summer, Torres' objective in Buffalo is a simple one.

"I'll just try to go out there and be physical and get some goals if I can," he said. "I don't want to disrupt the room. I want to be a good asset to the room."

The trade also moves Torres closer to his hometown of Toronto, located about a 90-minute drive from Buffalo.

"Coming to Buffalo is going to cost me five grand," Torres said, with a smile, referring to how much he's spent on tickets on family and friends for the game Friday. "No, it's good."

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