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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Craig Rivet (Getty Images)
Head Coach Lindy Ruff is officially entering playoff mode.

With a grueling schedule facing the team down the stretch - including six games in the next 10 nights - he almost has to. Ruff wants his team to be as well rested as possible this month, and with 11 of the final 17 games of the regular season being played on the road, the Buffalo Sabres are going to have to take it any way they can.

Thursday’s practice at HSBC Arena saw only a handful of players take the ice. According to Ruff it may not be an uncommon routine.

“You look at the overall, we’re in a stretch where… really, you’ve almost got to go into playoff mode,” he said. “You make days in between games now optional, and just skate as a team on a gameday.”

The theory will extend to the goaltenders as well. Ryan Miller was absent from Thursday’s skate and may get some more rest this weekend. Ruff would not commit to when Patrick Lalime would get some playing time, but did not rule anything out with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.

“I think with the fact that Ryan’s had a tough grind, that it’s definitely a possibility,” he said.

The Sabres may also see the return of Paul Gaustad this weekend. The centerman has skated with the team for the last few days, but has not played since suffering an upper body injury March 2 in Pittsburgh.

“Paul is skating well, starting to shoot well. There’s a chance he could play,” Ruff said.

The Sabres could use the extra help with the remainder of the schedule so active. The team will face 17 games in the last 31 days of the regular season, with only five contests being played at HSBC Arena.

“There are a lot of teams that are real desperate,” Craig Rivet said. “Home ice advantage maybe isn’t the biggest thing…We’re on the other end, when we’re going on the road we need wins too because we want to keep that third seed. It’s that time of year where teams are buckling down on the way that they want to play and games are tough as we move into that playoff mentality.”

Darcy Regier addressed the media following the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Florida this week.

To no one’s surprise, the primary topic was head shots, in which the general manages unanimously voted to take blindside hits out of the game beginning next season.

“It was in a lot of ways an extraordinary collaborative effort on the part of the people that were in that room, recognizing that there was a serious issue,” Regier said. “It’s not just about the injury today, it’s about the brain damage in the future.”

The proposal will next go to the NHL’s competition committee as well as the board of governors.

The Sabres GM will be a guest on NHL Hour, at 6 p.m. on Thursday.  For more information click here.

Sabres fans attending Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild have the chance to support the Buffalo Sabres Foundation and go home with a unique souvenir. A $20 donation to the Foundation will allow fans to take part in the “St. Patrick’s Day Hat Surprise.”

The Sabres’ Significant Others will be at tables throughout the HSBC Arena Pavilion beginning at 5:30 p.m. to sell the St. Patrick’s Day themed hats which have been signed by Sabres players. The tables will remain open until the final hat is sold. Hats for the “Buffalo Sabres Hat Surprise” were donated by the New Era Cap Company.

QUOTABLE: Craig Rivet on Patrick Kaleta

“He’s an energy player. Every team needs guys like this and we’re extremely happy to have Patty. The guy hits like a football player on skates. He’s so strong and so powerful… he’s a hard-nosed player... and the last couple of games he’s played really well for us.”
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