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Old Dogs Learn New Tricks

by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
It took NHL officials nine seconds in the Sabres first preseason game to show how serious they are about the new rule changes, whistling Washington forward Miroslav Zalesak for hooking just moments after the opening puck drop. One of the most important lessons for players to learn this preseason will be what can and can't be done in the new NHL.

"We are trying to adapt to the new standards," stated Sabres head coach, Lindy Ruff on Monday. "We are trying to be on the leading edge of that and so far, I think we have been. If we can continue to improve and stay away from the suspect calls, it will be in our favor."

Buffalo has been penalized a total of 19 times for 50 minutes in the first two preseason games, eight against Washington and 11 at Columbus, minimal violations when compared to Los Angeles' 96 penalty minutes in two games.

"Overall, I thought the officials did a good job of enforcing the new rules," stated Ruff. "Though, they are still trying to read certain plays. You can look at the Vanek penalty as an example. Those are tough calls."

At 2:45 of the first period against Washington, Sabres forward Thomas Vanek was called for playing with a broken stick, after a Columbus defenseman splintered his stick in two with a slash in an effort to slow the Austrian down.

Vanek sat in the box for two minutes, while no penalty was assessed to the Blue Jackets.

"(The officials) said they thought the slashing was up more, now that you can't tug at all," state Ruff. "I think they are right."

The forwards weren't the only players to feel the burden of the new rules.

The first goal of the game - a power-play marker by Washington left wing Matt Pettinger at 11:02 of the first period – came on the power play after Sabres goaltender Martin Biron was called for delay of game.

Biron played the puck in front of the goal line, turned and fired it around the boards, crossing the red line in the process. The referee instantly whistled the play dead.

"I have to look at it, but I don't think it was even close," stated Biron. "I thought I was going to be smart, run out and get the puck before it got to the goal line, but as I dropped it, I put it right in that zone."

"It's a quick play and we are really going to have to get practicing. I guess that's what the preseason is for."

"With the referees coming into the locker room before the game and explaining the new rules, I think everybody was hesitating when we got on the ice," stated Sabres co-captain, Daniel Briere. "You were wondering, can I do this or can I do that, even offensively."

In total, 40 penalties have been assessed in the team's first two games, 19 for Buffalo and 21 for their opponents.

Defensive Perspective
Despite allowing only two goals in each of the team's first two games, Ruff was disappointed with the team's defensive play on Saturday night, but was pleased the team's turnaround in last night's effort against Columbus.

"I thought we really adjusted well in the Columbus game," stated Ruff. "We really didn't let them cycle the puck around. The first 40 minutes of last night's game, we had a lot of puck possession."

Ruff's Thoughts on Biron and Miller's Preseason Performance
"I thought both of them were very good. Marty had a very sound game, making a lot of big saves. Ryan got beat by the one screen shot that he didn't see at all, and then the huge scrum in front of the net where we really thought the puck was covered. Miller was very good."


On the Road Again
The Sabres open a two-game road trip on Wednesday when the team travels to the Xcel Energy Center to face-off against the Wild at 7:00 PM, and travel to Washington for the rematch of Saturday night's contest against the Caps. It will be the second time in five days Washington and Buffalo have squared off. The puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7:00 PM.

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