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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Lindy Ruff (Photo: Getty Images)
 11/20- Lindy Ruff Interview 
Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff addressed the media today at HSBC Arena, discussing the play of Henrik Tallinder, a lack of focus and what he can do as a coach to get the team back on track. The following is a transcription of the interview:

Lindy, how shocking is it to go from a team that had two straight shutouts just a couple of weeks ago to a team that literally can’t seem to keep the puck out it’s own net three games in a row?

"It is shocking. To play as good as we did in the first period and give up three goals was just disappointing, outright disappointing.

I told the team to work as hard as we did to get our three goals and to cough the puck up and make it as easy as we did for them to get their three [goals] wasn’t something you’re going to win with.

You can put a lot of work into the game and you can give it away in seconds, you can give it away in minutes. We gave it away."

Craig Rivet called that a lack of focus. Would you agree with that?

"Yeah I talked to him. I just thought [it was] a lack of focus. We talked about the middle of the ice. I talked to the team on the ice for five minutes after the morning skate and I talked about it. We’ve got to keep the puck out of the middle of the ice.

"The play on the first goal, that’s just lack of focus. That’s careless, it’s a lack of focus. It was a wee little detail, but the wee little details end up leading up to big things in our game. That’s a goal against. At the end of a shift we didn’t dump it in, that turns out to be the [goal that went] off of Numminen’s shin pad, which is a wee little detail.

"We did a good job, we got out of the zone, but we don’t get the puck deep. Those little plays have turned into big plays. All the little plays on the ice, all the little detail plays that turned into goals for us that we worked hard, that our defense got up and made some good plays, they are wiped out by the poor plays we made defensively."

You’ve made a lot of comments during the season about how the forwards need to help out defensively. There has been spades of bad goaltending at times, but when you’re in a rut like this, is it incumbent on the six defensemen to go out, step their game up to make the play so the puck doesn’t end up in the net?

"I think if you analyze the two Chara shots, you can’t blame that on defensemen. Maybe one deflected off of somebody. The flip shot that goes off Numminen’s shin pad, I don’t think you can blame that on defensemen. That Tallinder play, you can blame that on defensemen. The play at the start of the third period was just an all-around sloppy play…

"Our forwards are doing a good job coming back. Our defense has made some poor plays that have cost us. There are games previous where the forwards have been poor with their backing up our defensemen that has hurt… it’s all factors of the game.

"It isn’t just our defense. You have a centerman that plays down low that is just as valuable and has made some bad mistakes and bad reads as a defenseman. Your defensive core consists of the six D down low and it consists of four centerman. [The center] is a defenseman just as much as the two defensemen are a lot of times."

When it’s not effort, and it’s a lack of focus, how do you correct that?

"It’s going to have to cost guys dearly with ice time. You can correct [lack of focus]. If you want to get focus, you want to get desperate, maybe some players will have to miss games. A player last night missed a lot of ice time. Really, that’s the only choice you have as a coach.

"To get an effort for I’d say for 85 percent of the game [that] was sound, was physically sound, was the type of game we wanted to play. To have a few lack of discipline penalties cost us and to have a couple of real big mistakes, cost us.

"And the penalties are lack of focus, which we are very good at in the beginning of the year. The hand obstruction, the tripping penalties, the offensive zone penalties that you don’t need to take is a focus issue for me. We can’t take those."

Hank’s ice time obviously was a reflection of the turnover, but in general you have talked many times in the last year or so about his game and where it is. How concerned are you that he’s just not going to be back maybe ever to where he was a couple years ago?

"Very concerned. Very concerned. I’ve expressed that concern with him. I’m very concerned. He should be concerned too. There is only one guy that can control that and Hank has to control that himself. His actions on the ice speak loudly and he’s the only guy that can control that and work his way out of it."

Might he have to watch tomorrow?

"I’m not going to tip any hat, but if I’m going to make statements that guys are going to have to lose ice time, then some guys are going to have to lose ice time. It can be games, it can be periods."

You seem like you’re sending a pretty clear message about accountability and the time is now.

"The time is now because this is not a couple of little mishaps. This is a stretch of poor games that have been poor in a lot of areas. Our goaltending has been poor. Our five-on-five play until last night was poor.

"Our five-on-five play was, I thought we got a great night out of the Hecht line, we got a pretty good night out of the Roy line and I think we got what we needed out of the guys that needed to hit, to finish checks – the Kaletas, the Gaustads. Then the Mair line had a real tough night for us."

At 6-0-2, do you think the team just get a little too comfortable with that fast start?

"I kept answering questions and I said we’re only into this 10, 11 games, we’ve got a lot of things to work on. I think you’re going to go through everything. Every team is going to go through a segment of the season where your goaltending may be tough, where you special teams may be not getting the job done.

"You’ve got offensively where you can’t seem to score, you’ve got to get through that. In an 82 game season you deal with all these highs and lows and there is never a team that doesn’t go through it. Maybe this is our little segment but now is the time to come out."

Does it take frustration maybe getting to the players to do it… sometimes it just has to leap through to the players themselves and it doesn’t matter what you say?

"Not it does matter what I say. I’m just saying that let’s say that 85 percent of that message was clear. We did a lot of good things. We talked really for two days about what we wanted to do five-on-five to get on track.

"We did a lot of good things that led to three even-strength goals early on in the game. We still did, and made a couple big mistakes defensively that hurt us. Now we’re going to play solid defensively and maybe we don’t score. It’s a balancing act of where it comes from."
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