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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Matt Ellis (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s been a hectic week for Matthew Ellis.

After being placed on waivers Oct. 1 by the Los Angeles Kings, the winger was shortly claimed by the Buffalo Sabres- just in time for a preseason contest in Columbus on Oct. 2.

Matt Ellis: Video | Audio
Craig Rivet: Video | Audio
Lindy Ruff: Video | Audio

Defeating the Blue Jackets 5-2 Thursday night, Ellis rejoined his team this morning for his first skate at HSBC Arena.

“It’s nice to come in here and get acquainted with my new teammates,” he said. “I was extremely excited [to be claimed by the Sabres]… When I got the phone call… I was just ecstatic and definitely excited about the opportunity.”

The Welland, Ont. native has some roots in the team growing up less than an hour away from Buffalo.

“I grew up in the same hometown as Danny Paille and Andrew Peters was right around the corner [St. Catharines, Ont.]. Coming in I know those two guys personally and there are a lot of faces there that I played against and competed with either in Junior or the AHL… in Rochester that are now graduated here.”

Ellis spent time in Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids from 2003-2007 and previously played junior hockey with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors in the OHL.

Although admittedly a Vancouver Canucks fan as a child, Ellis said he still made it to several games in Buffalo.

“This is usually where we came… caught quite a few games here at The Aud when I was a kid,” Ellis said. “Living this close to here, it was always exciting to get over and see the Sabres play.”

Now he hopes to don the Blue and Gold as the regular season opens Oct. 10 against the Montreal Canadiens.

“At this point I’m just taking things one day at a time. That’s all I can do,” Ellis said. “I’ve been in similar positions before and that has got to be my focus. I’ll do the things that I can do on a day-to-day basis and whatever capacity I can help this team, I’m willing to do that. Whatever happens at the end of the day happens, I’m just going to leave everything I have out on the ice.”

Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly were both absent from practice Friday morning.

Ruff said Connolly skated prior to the main practice, but added he is “doubtful” for Sunday’s exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Connolly (back) has missed the last four preseason contests.

“He’s been able to do some conditioning work and hopefully these next few days he’ll prove that he can play,” Ruff said. “[It’s] discouraging, but you have to battle through it. It’s part of the process, it’s a tough ride and he’s got a nagging type injury that doesn’t seem to want to go away.

“He’s got to get through it.”

Stafford, meanwhile, was out with what Ruff called “cauliflower ear.”

“It’s something a boxer gets. [There were] a lot of scraps last night so we’ve got some boxing injuries,” Ruff joked, referring to the 92 penalty minutes collected in Thursday’s game against Columbus, in which six fighting majors were issued between the teams.

Connolly’s complications, coupled with injuried to Adam Mair (knee) and Paul Gaustad (thumb) was a factor in claiming Ellis off waivers.

“I think he played 35 games in Detroit last year, a real good character guy. He’s a centerman with experience that we feel could help us if need be," Ruff said. "Those questions are going to be answered within the next few days. Adam is going to be getting in his first game and we hope to have Tim back.

"We like what we’ve heard about him, we like what we’ve seen. Last night was a tough game. He hadn’t skated in four or five days so it wasn’t really a fair evaluation.”

The team, as a whole, had some issues during one of the drills at the tail end of practice.

As the players stood at the redline, Ruff placed a puck outside the circle and selected a player to shoot it at the net on the other side of the rink – about three-fourths the length of the ice.

Miss the shot, the team skates a lap.

And skate they did.

More than 10 players took a shot, and none were successful.

Craig Rivet? Too high. Jason Pominville? Not even close.

“This is a professional hockey team,” Ryan Miller yelled.

Even the coaches were unsuccessful. Assistant coach James Patrick and goaltending coach Jim Corsi both caused another lap when they shot the puck wide.

Miller decided to take matters into his own hands.

With Clarke MacArthur ready to take his turn, the goaltender crouched down and aligned his stick with the net, trying to tee up the shot.

Finally, MacArthur hit the back of the net.

“I was actually proud of the fitness part of it,” Ruff said after practice. “I wanted to see them miss a couple times, but I don’t know about 15.

“I was disappointed in James [Patrick] the most. You’re supposed to lead by example and he’s one of the coaches… you can understand with Jimmy [Corsi]. His almost didn’t get [the puck] to the other end,” Ruff laughed.
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