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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
The newly-formed line of Luke Adam centering Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford remained intact during Thursday’s practice.  Stafford is expected to return from his 11-game absence on Friday when the Sabres host Columbus at HSBC Arena. 

Stafford and Pominville have not been paired together on a line before because both players typically play right wing.  Stafford will move to the left side and does not think the position switch will be an issue.

“Either way, you’re moving around a lot out there and it’s just a matter of getting in and making plays, and hopefully I provide some spark offensively,” he said.

Despite not having played much with Pominville, Stafford is hopeful that they can generate offense together.

“I’m definitely excited to see if we have some chemistry and see if we can spark the offense a little bit,” Stafford said.

With the team going through a stretch that has seen it score just five goals in four games, Ruff made changes to the lines in hopes of breathing life into the offense.  This week’s break in the schedule gave the Sabres plenty of opportunity to work on finding more ways to score goals.

“Our key guys need to put away their opportunities,” Ruff said.  “A lot of work on the offensive side this week and the transition side, so hopefully when the puck’s in the right players’ hands, they can convert.”

Columbus will enter Friday’s game against Buffalo having lost three straight games after losing 4-3 in a shootout against Nashville on Wednesday.  The 0-2-1 stretch has followed a five-game winning streak. 

Former Sabres player and assistant coach Scott Arniel is in his first season as head coach of the Blue Jackets and has his team off to a 14-8-1 start. Arniel was an assistant on Lindy Ruff’s staff from 2002 to 2006.  During that time, Ruff said, Arniel displayed a passion to one day become an NHL head coach.

“He had the fire for (becoming a head coach).  He didn’t want to stay (in Buffalo) and become a career assistant coach.  He wanted to move on and keep his career moving,” Ruff said.  “I would see him at coaches clinics when he was still playing, and that’s a pretty strong indication that somebody wants to spend some time in the coaching world.”

Ruff added that he is happy to see Arniel off to a good start this season.

“I think he’s gonna be a heck of a coach.  He’s doing a good job right now,” Ruff said.

Tim Connolly skated on his own before practice on Thursday to continue rehabbing a groin injury.  Ruff said Connolly might take part in tomorrow’s morning skate to work on his shooting and stops and starts.  There is no timetable on his return to the lineup.
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