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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres took to the ice for practice on Monday as they began a week that will see them play a pair of divisional games before playing two more games with the New York Islanders over the weekend.  Prior to their home-and-home series with the Islanders, however, the Sabres will first be tested against the two top teams in the Northeast Division in Montreal and Boston.

This week’s slate of games begins Tuesday when the Canadiens visit HSBC Arena for the third and final time this season.  The Habs won both of the first two meetings in Buffalo as well as the lone contest in Montreal so far this season.  Head Coach Lindy Ruff talked about the importance of getting a lead against in Tuesday’s game.

“They’ve done a good job of staying inside around (goaltender Carey) Price and not exposing themselves.  The only way you get big exposure against a team like that is to get a couple goal lead where you have to force them out of their game and that hasn’t happened,” Ruff said. 

Forward Jochen Hecht also emphasized the importance of getting ahead of Montreal on the scoreboard.

“They’ve got a good goalie that’s very confident against us,” Hecht said.  “They don’t give up a lot of chances, especially when they’ve got the lead so we want to get the lead in the first period and hold onto it and make them open up and change their game plan a little bit.”

Hecht added that it is imperative for the Sabres to play well for all three periods.

“I think that’s what separates the top teams from us right now.  They play 60 minutes through and they don’t break down… we struggle at times doing that,” he said.

Video: Jochen Hecht
Hecht centered a line with Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek at practice Monday after the three players saw time together during the third period of the Islanders game on Saturday.  As a result, center Tim Connolly, who had been skating with Pominville and Vanek, took Hecht’s place between Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis.

“I thought Jochen with ‘Van’ and ‘Pommer’ played pretty well in the third period on the Island, and maybe just a little different look for Tim.  I’m just trying to find a different way to get our even strength goals up a little more,” Ruff said.

The combination of Hecht, Vanek and Pominville pits three of the four most productive Sabres players over the last 10 games on the same line.  Pominville has recorded 12 points (3-9-12) over that span while Vanek has tallied 10 points (4-6-10) in the last 10 outings and Hecht has registered eight points (4-4-8). Drew Stafford, meanwhile, has scored nine points (3-6-9) in the last 10 contests.

Goaltender Ryan Miller made his 21st consecutive start on Saturday when Buffalo visited the Islanders and suffered a 5-3 loss. 

Miller’s streak of 21 straight starts is his longest such streak since starting in a career-high 34 consecutive games during the 2007-08 campaign.  Over the last 21 games, Miller has posted a record of 11-8-2 with a 2.72 goals against average and a .915 save percentage to go along with three shutouts.

Patrick Kaleta, who has missed the last six games with an upper body injury, said Monday he is scheduled to meet with a doctor on Tuesday to evaluate the injury and will have a better idea on the timetable for a return after that.  Kaleta has been able to practice with the team in a limited role over the past week.
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