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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Pat Kaleta (Getty Images)
With the ongoing General Managers meetings taking place in Boca Raton, Florida, talk following the Buffalo Sabres practice inevitably shifted to this year’s hot topic - head shots.

In each game, according to, “there was an average of 22 "contacts" to the head and just one of those 22 contacts per game was deemed a penalty by the on-ice officials. In fact, just 30 percent of the 22 "contacts" per game actually involved shoulder-to-the-head contact.”

“We’ve talked at length about head shots,” said Head Coach Lindy Ruff regarding discussions with Darcy Regier. “You talk about all the different incidents, you talk about hitting in the game – what should be a legal hit and what isn’t a legal hit. I know when I was at the World [Championships], any head shot was considered a penalty and the severity of it was dealt with right away. You were out of the game, even if it were a good check but your shoulder contacted the head.”

Sabres GM Darcy Regier sat down with to discuss head shots:

The NHL general managers have discussed a variety of amendments, ranging from outright banning all hits to the head, to a modified version that would only ban ‘blind-side’ hits against players.

“I think they’ve got to be able to draw a line somewhere,” Ruff said. “It’s a tough line…. Any decision you come up with isn’t going to be an easy one.

“There are some players in this League that skate at 90 degrees and you can run a head right into a belly button… then we’re going to run into the same problem. A player is going to be skating, he’s going to go down, he could lay there for five minutes and everyone is going to be yelling head shot; and you might find that same player playing in the third period. I’ve gone down both roads with this and it’s a tough place to be.”

Winger Pat Kaleta believes it needs to come down to the players taking responsibility and clean up the game.

“You have to protect the players,” he said. “I never intend on hitting someone in the head. I go and take pride in my hits… My job does walk a fine line but I have to take pride in what I do, and do it clean.

“You see certain circumstances where I think it could be avoided. For myself, I watch video and you’re in the moment during the game when you need a big hit. But I think we need to clean it up a bit and not have people injured, taken off a stretcher or [out with a] concussion for the rest of the year.

“I think the players know and we know that we should play clean. Its our job and we want to have a long and healthy career and I think one way of helping that cause would be no head shots.”

Paul Gaustad returned to practice while Thomas Vanek was absent.

According to Ruff, Vanek was given a maintenance day while Gaustad is still recovering from an upper body injury. The centerman was hurt March 2 during an altercation with Pittsburgh’s Mike Rupp.

Ruff said Vanek should be in the lineup Wednesday night as the Sabres host the Dallas Stars. Gaustad will not be available for the contest and does not have a set timetable for a return.

Ryan Miller recapped his media tour in New York City on Monday, in which he did interviews with NBC’s Today Show, VH1, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair among others.

“It’s a great game and I enjoy doing it,” he said. “This is a little new to me, but I’ll do my best with it and see how it goes.”

To see the full interview, click here.

The Sabres practiced for 45 minutes at the Coca-Cola Center in Amherst, doing some work on the power play. Buffalo is ranked 23rd in the NHL with a 16.1 percent success rate and 19th in the League with 42 goals with the man advantage.

“A little bit of our problem last game was entries. We didn’t’ make good decisions, we didn’t make good passes,” Ruff said. “We had some zone time, but our zone time has to be concentrated more. We’re looking to pass before we’re looking to shoot.”

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