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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Patrick Lalime (Photo: Getty Images)
While it’s not exactly a homecoming, Patrick Lalime is still excited to see some familiar faces.

The netminder will start against his former team for the first time Wednesday night as the Buffalo Sabres take on the Chicago Blackhawks.

Patrick Lalime: Audio | Video
Jason Pominville:
Audio | Video
Lindy Ruff:
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Lalime played two seasons in Chicago, compiling a 20-18-3 record in 44 games prior to signing with Buffalo this summer.

“I looked at the schedule. Chicago is an added incentive for him,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think it’s a good place to drop him in.”

Lalime has played in nine contests for the Sabres this season, typically seeing action every fourth or fifth game. The team’s upcoming schedule, however, could change that pattern.

Buffalo will play three stints on the road in January. A stretch of five games in eight nights begins in Chicago and continues in Dallas on Thursday. Altogether, eight of the next nine games will be played away from HSBC Arena.

“We’ve got some tough travel,” Ruff said. “We’ve got a tough turnover coming back from Dallas and we want to make sure that we keep Ryan [Miller] fresh at the same time. We’re going into a part of the schedule where we need Patty to play some games.”

Ryan Miller has taken the bulk of the playing time lately, starting the last seven contests. Ruff admitted to altering the schedule due to Miller’s recent play in which the goaltender has compiled a 5-2 record and allowed only 12 goals. That includes the team’s 3-1 loss to the Red Wings Jan. 10 as Miller made 48 saves.

“When he gets going like that it’s an opportunity to give him a couple extra games, but now we want to get back into the routine,” Ruff said. “It doesn’t mean [Miller] won’t play five, or six or seven [in a row] again. We’ll see how the schedule goes and as a team how well we’re playing and how much we’re giving up.”

Wednesday’s match-up will be Lalime’s first game since Dec. 26.

“I just don’t want to think about that,” Lalime said. “We’ve done so much practice with [goaltending coach] Jimmy [Corsi] the last couple days, game-like situations. I just want to go out there, trust what I can do and have fun with it.

“I have a lot of friends on the team and it’s going to be fun.”

Tuesday’s practice at HSBC Arena wasn’t all fun and games for the Sabres.

Ruff grew unhappy with the team’s tempo during drills and stopped twice, demanding desperation from the players.

“There were parts of practice I was frustrated with,” Ruff said. “Some of the drills we were working on to create offense, we weren’t putting enough into it… The message is, we scored two goals in the last two games. If we scored a few more, we would have been in better shape.

“I thought we had a real good practice yesterday but I felt like the boys had the coast-mode going today.

“We’re just trying to ramp up the intensity in practice so we can carry that over into the games. With four lines, I don’t want anyone using the excuse ‘boy, it’s tough because we play four lines.’ Let’s put more work into a shorter period of time and use everybody.”

Ruff cited Saturday’s loss to the Red Wings as a game that “lacked offensive intensity.”

“He sent his message… I think that’s the way it should be,” Jason Pominville said. “We have to be more desperate offensively. Even though we had a few chances in Detroit, we didn’t generate a lot of shots on net… they played well defensively, they didn’t give us much and we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had. At the end of the day if we would have [had desperation], it probably would have been a different game.

“Hopefully that’s what we need to get us going.”

Ruff said defenseman Henrik Tallinder will be back in the lineup against Chicago on Wednesday night.

Tallinder was a healthy scratch against Detroit, allowing Chris Butler to rotate back in.

Butler was recalled from the AHL Portland Pirates on Dec. 18 to fill in for a depleted blueline. Ruff has been pleased with the 22 year old’s play, however, and has opted to temporarily rotate seven defensemen. Butler has one assist and a plus-four rating through 10 games.

With Tallinder back in, Ruff will have to sit another defenseman, although he said no decision has been made yet as to who it will be.

QUOTABLE: “He just he has incredible lateral movement. I call it light on your feet… there are some players who can go left really well or right really well. He can go both directions really well when he’s coming down on you. That, coupled with his vision makes him a special player.”

~Lindy Ruff on Buffalo native Patrick Kane
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