|Tim Connolly, Craig Rivet (Getty Images)
In the midst of a five-game winning streak, and looking to capture No. 6 on Friday night against Toronto, one thing is clear – the Buffalo Sabres are finding ways to win.
They’ve come early, and they’ve come later – often. Whether it’s erasing three-goal deficits in the third period, as they did against Pittsburgh and Atlanta, or netting three goals in a span of 2:11 in the first frame, the Sabres are holding on to gain two points.
And while the even-keeled attitude
that the team has adapted this season may, in part, be the cause, the extra points are the end result.
“I think what’s important is, if you’re going to run stretches together, you’ve got to be able to win different ways, because you don’t always have it your way,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ve shown that… You’ve got to be able to win some games on the road, you’ve got to be able to win some tight ones and at the same time you’ve got to be able to come back.”
The Sabres have been able to lock down the lead this season. Buffalo is 13-1-4 in one-goal games this season, blowing away their 2008-09 record of 16-7-9 in close games.
And while the games have admittedly been less than perfect at times, particularly during the five-game stretch, Buffalo is keeping it together.
“I think we understand as a group in here that everything is going to be different,” said Captain Craig Rivet. “There are going to be different emotions and different mood swings and momentums throughout all the games. We have to try and figure out a way to channel that in the right direction. I think we have in the last couple games.
“We certainly haven’t played our best hockey… but we seem to do the right things to get a win, which is very difficult in this League. We know that every game isn’t going to be perfect, we know that we haven’t played perfectly, but we’re finding a way to win which is the most important thing and we’re going to continue to try and work on the things we haven’t been doing well.”
“I think it shows the character we have in the room,” Tyler Myers
said of the streak. “Nobody ever gives up or has that attitude. It just shows that we believe in each other in here and when we come to play we’re very strong out there. Now we just have to take it one game at a time, and make sure we have good habits in practice everyday. I think keeping that intensity up is going to be huge.”
The team’s winning ways may keep Pat Kaleta out of the lineup for another game. The winger, who has been out since suffering a lower body injury Dec. 27, is close to returning and has been practicing with the team since Monday.
Ruff, however, typically does not like to make changes to the roster when experiencing success.
“If you work hard and you win games, it’s tough to take people in and out,” Ruff said. “You look for the opportunity to get somebody in. He’s really only had one hard practice so I think in Pat’s case a couple days of skating will be good for him. It will probably be better.”
Patrick Lalime, however, will be making an appearance this weekend, keeping with the usual schedule as Buffalo has back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche.
Prediction? Lalime should get the nod against Colorado.
Miller has been unbeatable against Toronto, winning all four games this season with a 1.48 GAA. He is 17-7-0 all-time against the Leafs.
Meanwhile, Lalime has had some experience with the Avalanche after spending two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. The netminder is 6-3-2 when facing the Avs with a 1.87 GAA. Miller has only faced them twice (0-1-1).
QUOTABLE: Lindy Ruff on the team’s balanced scoring:
“I would be tickled pink if somebody just got on fire and scored 10 goals in 10 games, but right now I’ll take the balance, because there are teams that are screaming for the top guys to score. I’ll take it the way we’re getting it, but if we can get one guy to catch on fire, it would be great.”