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Getting Back Into Form

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are not hitting the panic button just yet. In the midst of the team's longest losing streak of the season, the Sabres are trying to keep their composure as teams are quickly gaining ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

The team's early season success has come with a price.

Unlike 2005-06 season when the group of self named "nobodies" took the NHL by surprise, Buffalo is being forced to deal with the facet that they are now the team to beat in the East. Breakaways and two-on-one situations that were abundant at the beginning of the season are now in sparse supply.

The effect is the team's first three-game losing streak this season and its first three-game skid in HSBC Arena since early November in 2005.

"We were the team that was always doing the hunting before," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "Now we are the team that is being hunted and we haven't handled it well."

"We've got to pass this test, and it is a test. We're not seeing the opportunities we were seeing earlier in the year. Teams are doing their homework."

With the NHL All-Star Game and the five-day break from action that goes along with it rapidly approaching, the team is concerned about ending their winning drought and regaining their patience and composure as quickly as possible. The thought of taking bad habits into a practice-less span is not what Buffalo needs to regain its winning ways.

The Sabres most immediate opportunity to stop the skid will be Wednesday against the team that handed Buffalo a 3-2 shootout loss on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Boston Bruins (MSG, 7 p.m.).

"There is a lot of urgency to get out of this funk [Wednesday night] and not any later," said Ruff. "You always want to address losing in the next game."

"This may be a good thing when we look back on it," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "When we aren't playing as a team, instead relying more on individuals, things aren't going to work and it's not going to win us hockey games."

The Sabres saw a resemblance of their former, dominating selves late in the second period and throughout the third in Boston. After a dismal opening frame where they were out shot 19-8, Buffalo held nearly a two to one advantage in scoring opportunities.

Said Ruff concerning his team's performance on Monday, "It wasn't quite there and we still need a bigger commitment from some guys in some areas."

Campbell called it "a greater willingness to pay the price." Buffalo's attacking style has been the largest area of contention for Ruff and his coaching staff. Too often during the three-game skid, player's efforts in misplayed situations have been lacking, specifically defensive zone play and forecheck pressure.

"I just need a little more diligence done on forechecking when there are bad dump-ins and letting the other team just walk out of the zone," said Ruff. "That's where we have been bad. We haven't stayed on the puck in our zone on what I call bad plays."

"There is stuff that needs to be done that maybe not everyone sees, but that we see in the locker room, that is not the character of this team," said Campbell. "We need to get back into form."

Jochen Hecht (lower-body injury) and Paul Gaustad (lower-body injury) will both be scratches on Wednesday night said Ruff. Replacements Daniel Paille and AHL All-Star Drew Stafford will take their places in the lineup. Left-winger Thomas Vanek will skate on Buffalo's top line with Daniel Briere and Jason Pominville.

The Sabres second annual Red Cross Blood Drive at HSBC Arena on Tuesday, January 16 saw a dramatic increase in participants. Nearly 530 people gave blood throughout the all day event, as compared to 88 the previous year, setting a Western New York attendance record. All presenting donors walked away with an autographed Sabres puck.

Since its founding in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has been the nation's premier emergency response organization. As part of a worldwide movement that offers neutral humanitarian care to the victims of war, the American Red Cross distinguished itself by also aiding victims of devastating natural disasters. Over the years, the organization has expanded its services, always with the aim of preventing and relieving suffering.
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