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BTB BLOG: FUEL FOR THE FIRE?

by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Beyond the Boards is written by the Buffalo Sabres Website Manager, Brian Wheeler. Joining the Sabres prior to the 2003-04 season, Wheeler is the main contact and content editor for Sabres.com. He has worked in the NHL, NFL, AHL and NLL over the past 11 years.  Click here to send him an email.


 
Clarke MacArthur (photo: Getty Images)
Jan 11, 2008, 3:36 PM EST

Lindy Ruff had a clear cut and strong message for the media and his players following practice Friday.

"I thought we had some guys that exceeded [their roles] last night," said Ruff.  "For other guys to come back into the lineup, they're going to have to exceed where they are at.

"That's just the bottom line because, based on their absence, other guys have filled in exceeded where we should be at.  That was something that I was very impressed with."

There are two elements at play and two distinct groups of players in that statement.  Take a look at each.

Point/Group 1) Guys like Clarke MacArthur, Adam Mair, Michael Ryan, Nolan Pratt and Daniel Paille played an outstanding game against a very tough Ottawa team on Thursday, according to Ruff.  And more importantly, they played above expectations (not a phrase you hear much around Buffalo these days).  My guess... Ruff wanted to reward them by making that public statement.

 WANT MORE CONTENT?

Listen to Ruff's entire interview from Friday along with forward Jochen Hecht's.
Ruff Interview 
Hecht Interview  
Point/Group 2) The Sabres scratches on Thursday were Derek Roy, Tim Connolly and Nathan Paetsch.  Maxim Afinogneov is still on the injured-reserve list.  Ruff wants more from this group and is looking for the statement to motivate.

Now, I don't think Connolly, Roy and Afinogenov won't dress when healthy.  Ruff wants to see a similar effort from Group 2) as Group 1)'s on Thursday.  He termed Group 1)'s effort as "superior to what we normally see."

In this crazy NHL season, where seemingly no team is ever going to be out of the playoff picture, Ruff is looking to fuel a fierce comeback by igniting his most skilled players.  Yes, Group 1) played well, but the Sabres are a much more dangerous team when Group 2) is putting forth that effort.

So to me the message didn't seem to be "certain players need to play better or they'll be benched."  

It was more, "players need to play better for us to make a serious run at the playoffs and beyond.  We're not done because we haven't won in eight straight.  We're still in this.  Let's go."

Here are a few other similar lines from the interview. All have the same theme.

"I believe in the group we have here and I feel this group is good enough to win on a nightly basis."

"I think I surprised them by saying that we're one win away from being right there again."

"Win a game and we're within striking distance."

"If you put two or three games together, all of a sudden you're sitting in seventh or eighth place again and looking to move up from there."

"It [this season] has been a roller coaster ride.  As good as any ride.  We've had highs and we've had lows.  We just haven't been able to hit a happy medium.  But I feel the most important part is that nobody quit and nobody has failed to show up when we've needed it most."
 
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