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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Tim Connolly (photo: Bill Wippert)
The Buffalo Sabres will likely sport a different lineup Saturday night as they host the Washington Capitals.

After dropping the last two contests at HSBC Arena, head coach Lindy Ruff thought it was time to shake things up – altering all four lines in a grueling practice Friday afternoon.

Video: Tim Connolly
Ales Kotalik
Clarke MacArthur
Jason Pominville
Lindy Ruff
Thomas Vanek

Most notably was the placement of centerman Tim Connolly with wingers Jason Pominville and Clarke MacArthur.

Connolly said he may suit up on Saturday night as the Sabres host the Washington Capitals. The contest would be his first game of the regular season since fracturing two vertebrae in his back during exhibition.

“The last few days everything has been going in the right direction,” Connolly said. “I feel as if I’m ready so we will just wait and see tomorrow.

“It’s up to [the coaching staff] now. I feel pretty good”

Ruff said pending any side-affects he might feel tomorrow, he “would assume [Connolly] would be back in.”

MacArthur had temporarily filled in for Connolly down the middle, but with the return of the centerman in practice, was returned to the wing.

The shift sent Daniel Paille to the fourth line with Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta.

The remaining change to the depth chart consisted of Ales Kotalik and Drew Stafford swapping positions- Kotalik moved up to the team’s top line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek while Stafford dropped to the third tandem with Adam Mair and Maxim Afinogenov.

Andrew Peters and Matt Ellis were without a line and are possible scratches if the lines hold true tomorrow night. Mike Weber was absent from practice, likely returning Nathan Paetsch to the lineup as well.

“I’ve found that out over the years, sometimes when you shuffle the entire deck, players like it,” Ruff said. “They like the opportunity to play with somebody else and sometimes that drives up the intensity on different lines.”

Ruff is hoping the moves will jumpstart the Sabres offense that has been outscored 10-4 in their only two regulation losses of the season. Buffalo compiled a record of 6-0-2 in their first eight games before dropping the last two contests.

“It’s been a good run with the lines we use. If we can bat .750 every 10 games, we will be in good shape,” Ruff said. “But I am extremely disappointed with losing these last two games at home. After going on the road and getting three out of four and playing pretty sound hockey we are just trying to drive home that point.

“Teams are going to come into our building and play a different type of game. We go on the road and play a different type of game and frustrate the heck out of other teams. Then we come home and frustrate the heck out of ourselves. We’ve got to turn the tables a little bit and acknowledge that teams are going to try and make it pretty boring for us in here.”

To combat a three-game skid, the coaching staff walked players through an extensive video session, followed by a long, and high-tempo practice at HSBC Arena.

“We talked a lot about our forecheck and the intensity on our forecheck- what our first two guys have been doing, and haven’t they been doing,” Ruff said. “Our strength of our club has always been playing in the offensive zone and it’s been our weakness in the past two games. We gave up 23 scoring chances last night and part of that was due to the fact that we didn’t’ spend any time in the other team’s zone.

“We identified what we thought was missing and that’s always the great challenge – get them back on track…[Today we] tried to get ourselves grounded again.”
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