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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Lindy Ruff
[Editor's Note: Head Coach Lindy Ruff spoke with the media yesterday following practice in Florida. In the interview he discussed injuries to Spacek and Gaustad as well as addressed what the Sabres need to do for the remainder of Buffalo's road trip.]

Will [Jaroslav] Spacek be back or is  [Micheal] Weber going to play most likely?

LR: We’ll see. We tried to give him a little bit extra and a little bit of physical contact at the tail end of practice to determine whether he will be able to play. But my initial thoughts were it doesn’t look good. But we’ll see how he feels in the morning and how he reacted to some of the bull in the ring when he’s battling some of our bigger players. We’ll see how he reacts to that.

How about Paul [Gaustad]? Talking with him, he said there is good news. He doesn’t know for the weekend, but there doesn’t appear to be any damage.

LR: That is the good news. There is no damage, just whether he will be able to play with it initially. Short term, it is really good news for us.

What has Weber been doing right to earn the call-up?

LR: From Randy [Cunneyworth] and my understanding from Darcy [Regier] is that he has played a physical game and he’s been solid defensively. He’s been a plus player down there and right now he’s been the guy that they have really liked and they really liked the way he played. The game we played him up here we really liked his presence and his composure at the same time. Although putting a young player in his first NHL game is still a tough situation. He’s a game kid that has really played some good hockey for them down there and really consistent hockey.

One thing I took away after Carolina, talking with Jason Pominville, I asked him in the third period if he thought the effort was there. He said, ‘no I don’t.’ He said after the [Eric] Staal goal it was almost like we stopped playing. That’s a pretty serious thing especially for a player to say that and admit that.

LR: We are not trusting the system. We are not trusting as a five-man group, each other, and that workload gets disjointed. And one person without working in unison with the other people isn’t going to do any good on the ice. From that point on, and I think I’ve seen it in some other games, when we’ve had the mishap or the goal has gone in, we haven’t stuck with it. We had a long discussion after the game and had another long discussion today about the system and how we need to play. The disappointing part is we’ve been in this situation now probably three road games in a row. You can call it bounces, you can call it whatever you want, but you still have to stay with it. And after that point I didn’t think we stayed with it.

When it comes to [Toni] Lydman and [Henrik] Tallinder penalty killing, I thought they did a great job. But it seems five-on-five they are losing it somehow. What is going on with them?

LR: If you look at the situations, and we reviewed them, the support from the five-man group is something that hurt them. The play we made on the first goal was not a typical play. It shouldn’t have been, in the first place, Tallinder’s puck. It should have been our winger’s puck. If it was Tallinder’s puck, he should have had support and that’s where the system broke down. You can blame that on the defense, you can blame that on whatever you want, but it’s a five-man unit that has to get the job done. On the goal where they were below the goal line, our forward that gets in there, that is supposed to be taking their second man, he played the puck at the same time. And then [Rod] Brind’Amour was allowed to pass the puck out, so our system broke down again. Two of those situations are situations that we have talked about, that you need to be a cohesive five-man unit and trust the system. When the system breaks down you are going to get opportunities like that and people are going to look bad. Sometimes the wrong person is looking bad because they haven’t gotten the support they need in our system.

Drew Stafford has really struggled here in his second year. Where are you with Drew and where is he at?

LR: I think he’s caught in a little bit of a half and half situation. He’s not getting some of the power play time he did get. We’re giving some of that to Ales and I think Ales has thrived. He needs to get comfortable with the amount of ice time he’s getting. He’ll grow with that ice time. He’s caught between trying to show enough desperation to be valuable. He’s getting between one and two opportunities a game. He had a real good opportunity that he backhanded wide last game. But some of those opportunities aren’t there. The rhythm for his game has changed due to the amount of ice time, but he’s a young guy that has to battle through some of that. He’s had a tough time with it at times, but we’ve got to help him through that.

Would you even consider having him spend a week in Rochester to get his confidence back?

LR: That’s always a possibility. That’s something we haven’t talked about, but it’s always a possibility. The risk you run there is if a player like Drew is down gets hurt, our manpower is limited as it is right now. I don’t think my initial thoughts are [to do that]. You lose a pretty good player if you put him in that situation.

Did you think that at this point in the season you would still be telling guys they need to stay in the system?

LR: I think that is so repetitive. It is such a challenge. It is about repeating the same good habits and same good fundamentals day in and day out. You visually reinforce them with video. You try to encourage the good habits of practice. That is from day one until the last day of the playoffs. There are some cases where they say sometimes it takes a thousand times. We’ve argued sometimes it takes two thousand times with players. It is that repetitive. It is about teaching day in and day out. I said last night that we’ve got to continue to do that type of job and we‘ve got to be better at it. Not understanding some of those plays we made that we didn’t trust the system, we reinforce that with the drills we put together, we reinforce that with the video we show before practice and they’ve got to visually know, ‘boy if I did trust it I would have been there. If I would have supported that play would have never happened.’ That is an ongoing process and that is on all aspects of the game. When something starts going bad your accent is on that and when another area goes a little bit better you leave that area and go on to another area. It’s from day one until the last day you pack your bags.

What do you see in the Florida Panthers who are coming off a big win against Philadelphia?

LR: Dominating performance is really what I thought. They out shot them, outplayed them. I’ve been able to see a few of their players since we are a split franchise. They’ve got some top-end players in [Ollie] Jokinen and [Nathan] Horton, [Jay] Bouwmeester on the back end. Defense with good mobility, [Tomas] Vokoun we all know is a goaltender that has been really at the top of this league really for the last few years. The disparity between teams now is such a fine line that the little areas are the areas you have to win. They are a team that has good use in their lineup, they have good speed. It’s going to be a game, I’ve already told the team, it’s building that hasn’t been really friendly to us. We haven’t had a lot of success and we are going to have to change that.
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