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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Lindy Ruff (Photo: Getty Images)
Editor's Note: The following is Lindy Ruff's interview Tuesday afternoon as he addressed the media following practice at HSBC Arena. The Buffalo Sabres Head Coach discusses injuries, the identity of the team and the final three games of the regular season.]

[Tim] Connolly, [Craig] Rivet and [Clarke] MacArthur?

All banged up to different degrees. Some are being looked at by the doctor and we’ll have updates tomorrow whether they will be available.  Rivet is fine, the other two we’ll see. Even Pat [Kaleta] is still questionable.

  Adam Mair:Audio | Video
  Jason Pominville: Audio | Video
  Lindy Ruff: Audio | Video
  Thomas Vanek: Audio | Video
  Lindy Ruff Interview Transcribed

What are the problems with them?

One is upper, one is lower. There are various [ailments]… I don’t really want to get into them right now.

How disruptive is it when you have players that can’t take draws and the wingers have to take them for them?

We knew they were a good draw team. We made some good adjustments. We played to lose some draws, which created some pressure. That’s the stat you don’t see. I thought Pommer [Jason Pominville], on a couple, did a nice job even in his own end. It puts a guy in a different situation, but it’s something that you have to adapt to. It’s no use having a guy in there if he’s not going to win them at all. In that case, we’ve been working with Pommer a little bit and having him going in to take some.

Explain why, some fans may watch this on the Web and say why would they play to lose the draw? Can you explain the strategy behind that?

We’re keeping our own stats during the game and we know who has been beating who. We know that if [Pavel] Datsyuk has gone 3-0, or 4-0, and if he’s gone 4-0 then you might as well play to lose. If you go in the rotation and play to win and try to set up offensively you get no pressure.

If the odds are you’re going to lose it, you can create all types of pressure. You can get inside their defenseman and be on the forecheck right away. You might as well play the odds. If there’s a guy on the other team that’s doing really well, then play the odds. Let’s go ahead with it, let’s have the centerman go ahead with it. There are times in the game that we will intentionally let our wingers jump in right away, off the bat. It helps create some pressure for us.

Lindy this morning I heard just a snippet on the radio, you were saying that this team didn’t really know it’s identity, or it lacked it’s identity throughout the year. when I asked the players about that, asked what is the identity of this team, a lot of them said inconsistency.

We haven’t been able to push through offensively. The identity we’re trying to create is a puck-pressure team that plays an up-tempo [style] two men front. That should lead to a lot of pretty good offense. The problem is when you play like that, the mistakes that you make if you don’t convert, show up on the offensive side.

I can mention the Philly game, the Ottawa game, where going into the third period it’s tied and we make the mistake and it goes the other way. We haven’t gotten the reward for playing this up-tempo, puck-pressure game on the offensive side of it. We haven’t been able to lock down some of the situations. Even getting some of the games to overtime where you get that extra point.

The tight games, there are lots of games I can mention where in the third period the game is sitting there and we’ve lost the game. We’ve gone after it, we’ve missed the opportunity to convert on a good offensive situation because of how we play and we’ve given up a real dangerous situation going the other way that gets converted.

Some of it is finish, we haven’t been able to finish, our key guys haven’t finished for us. in the past we’ve been able to be in those situations and be able to run it up. We’re not quite there which has made it tough.

So that’s how it gets lost, the identity gets lost. If somebody were to ask me the identity of the team, I would say I honestly have no idea.

I think that when we went good and were pretty consistent with it, it’s a tough team to play because they are pressuring the puck at all points. When one or two guys start missing assignments and you get goals going in, that’s where the inconsistency comes in. It makes it tough.

Your top two lines, and I’ve talked a lot about our top two lines, have to be your best lines. A game like last night, that didn’t happen again. I thought the [Paul] Gaustad line created the most opportunities, got in really good on the forecheck. The other lines were kind of at a stalemate. They weren’t able to push through and make the difference for us.

Is that a personnel thing then? You talked about it a couple years ago and there were different personnel here, obviously, a different team, a different beat.

I think it’s the inconsistency factor. Some of our, and young sometimes is two or three years into your career. I’ve spent a little time talking about Andrej Sekera this morning. He’s at that [point] where he’s close, but he’s not there yet. He’s caught a little bit in between, we’re asking him to get up ice and it’s hurting his defensive responsibilities. Not unlike, I thought the comparison was pretty good, not unlike Brian [Campbell].

Drew Stafford is in that category. He’s gone good but there has been some inconsistency there. He looked like he was really going to take off for a while, but has dropped off. Those are the types of inconsistencies that have hurt us through the year.

Do you have enough on this team, going forward?

I think I have to stand here and take some of the heat. It is about developing it is about building around players. It’s about trusting players, it’s about knowing that players will have tough times. And it’s tough right now. The impatience could probably hurt you. We’ve seen signs where, we could have been impatient with Brian Campbell a long time ago.

It takes time with players to get them to where you need to get them to. We could have been impatient with a lot of different guys, but we’ve shown the patience. These guys were kind of on the bubble where we were right last year, coupled with the fact of Millsey going out hurt us. But I think the patient route is a better route to go.

When is too long, too long?

I don’t know. In this business, I don’t know.

Maybe it ties into what you’re talking about, but how do you, Thomas Vanek in particular in his inconsistencies with his injuries in the second half of the season, how do you explain some of that?

I’ve had conversations with Thomas. I think dealing with what he dealt with, I don’t know if we got him quite up to speed before we got him back in [the lineup]. I don’t think he had the strength he had before he came back in. I’ve questioned whether vision, with what he’s wearing, has affected his game.

Most offensive players when they start to get frustrated, start to cheat on the offensive side. A lot of times they try to do too much and it makes it even worse. I think in Thomas’ case, there is frustration there. I’ve stayed close to him to try and eliminate the frustration and even had a good conversation again with him today. You’ve got to stick with it. You’re going to have to trust it and be better in the little areas of the ice and good things will happen.

When you’re team’s playoff hopes are dangling like this, this has to be one of the toughest points of the season to be a coach.

It is tough. It’s tough. We came out the way we wanted to come out against a very good team last night. I think the frustration is missing a couple of those key opportunities to get that team down. I think you saw a little bit of the frustration creep into the second period.

Even Tim’s frustration to take the penalty he took, that’s my job to try and keep that frustration out of the game. We just spent a lot of time talking about discipline. Don’t give the Red Wings a lot of the man-advantage situations, which we did. We stayed away from it, but even we could have taken one less, which may have made the difference in the game.

Do you sense any difference, obviously you’re in a tight spot here, do you sense any difference in your players?

It was quiet in there last night, walking in there after the game. It was quiet. My job today was to try and pick them up… we’ve got to create the hope, and hope that we get some good help around us and go and win a game tomorrow night.

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