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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

Today’s practice at First Niagara Center was neither a trick nor a treat for the Buffalo Sabres. It was the first opportunity for Lindy Ruff to put his troops through a workout since Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Florida, and Ruff didn’t let a minute of the high-tempo 60-minute practice go to waste.

“That might have been one of the toughest practices we’ve had in a couple of years,” said Ruff, who was very vocal throughout practice. “I said the other night it wasn’t acceptable – how we acted and how we played. It’s not acceptable. I said that if you’re going to play like that, we’ll practice even harder. That’s just part of coaching.”

Ruff emphasized the Sabres need to put forth a more consistent effort for all 60 minutes, not just pockets within the game. He reminded the players of that several times today.

“You can go five or six minutes and play really well. Then we’ve done some things that have kind of hurt ourselves and we get on our heels. I don’t think we’ve been the team we were that started the year, and we’re just trying to get back to that.”

Nobody was caught off guard by the tone of today’s practice, especially captain Jason Pominville.

“We kind of expected it. There’s a couple of days before our next game. Coming off a day off, and let’s be honest, a pretty poor effort on our part, I think we needed to get back to basics. That comes with hard work and compete.”
Pominville said that Ruff’s message was received loud and clear.

“I think that’s what we needed. We had a good meeting (prior to practice) and saw some things that we needed to work on. Part of today was about hard work and being better with the puck. Maybe an up-beat, up-tempo practice is what you need. At the end of the day, it should be good for us.”

Ruff tinkered with the lines on Saturday night, and he did more of the same today. The most obvious change has Ville Leino moving between Pominville and Thomas Vanek, with Luke Adam now on a line with Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. Ruff said the move isn’t a knock on Adam; it’s more of an attempt to get Leino on track offensively while playing with the team’s top two scorers. Ruff also wouldn’t commit to Adam or Roy playing center, saying they could both see time at the pivot.

Jochen Hecht didn’t take part in today’s practice, and Ruff didn’t sound too confident when discussing his long-term prognosis.

“He wasn’t doing so well. It’s probably the first time in this process that I’m starting to get concerned.”
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