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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
For the 14th time in his coaching career, Lindy Ruff will step behind the bench tonight as the Sabres open up the home portion of their 2011-12 season. While last Friday’s win over Anaheim in Helsinki was technically the team’s “home” opener, Ruff knows there’s nothing like playing in front of your own fans for the first time, and he can sense there’s something special about tonight’s game.

“There’s a lot of excitement surrounding this one, coming back home after playing as well as we did overseas,” Ruff said following today’s morning skate. “I think what’s important is that we get back into the grind now. People are going to pound you, people are going to be hard on the puck. It’s not your teammates anymore like in practice. We know they played a real desperate game last time out against Boston, and we’re gonna have to match that.”

Ruff didn’t announce his starting goaltender or any lineup changes from last weekend’s wins in Europe. He did confirm yesterday that Jochen Hecht will not be available for either game this weekend. Hecht has been practicing with the team all week, but he is still recovering from a concussion he sustained in training camp.

This is the 180th all-time meeting between Buffalo and the Carolina/Hartford franchise. The Sabres lead the series 94-61-4, and are 53-28-8 at home.

Carolina’s Paul Maurice will coach his 900th career NHL game tonight, making him just the seventh coach to reach this milestone with one team. He trails only Lindy Ruff (1,068) and Nashville’s Barry Trotz (986) among active coaches in games coached with their current team.

Carolina comes into tonight’s game with a record of 1-2-1. They were winless in the first three games, before breaking that off with a 3-2 victory against Boston on Wednesday. Jeff Skinner leads the Canes with five points (1+4), but had his three-game scoring streak snapped in Wednesday’s win.
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