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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Lindy Ruff (Getty Images)

While there may not have been 18,000 fans at HSBC Arena on Thursday afternoon, it was still relatively noisy as the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice.

Head Coach Lindy Ruff had returned for his first non-game day practice following a two-week Olympic break. And after back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Washington, the boss wasn’t too happy with what he saw from his players:

Break downs in the system and overall loss of cohesiveness were partially to blame, but the chief concern was loud and clear – a lack of communication.

“Do the Slovaks talk?” Ruff asked Andrej Sekera. “Are you ready?” Ruff barked to another. “I said, are you ready?” He harped on players to get to the front of the net and demanded others talked to their linemates. When they didn’t – his response was simple: “Louder!”

“Part of our play in the first 30 games stem from; puck support, knowing where people are at, hearing another guy’s voice,” Ruff said following the 45-minute workout. “Watching the game again this morning, I would swear half the team had muzzles on.

“It makes it tough. When you’re under pressure, the only thing you can trust is somebody else’s voice, and the fact that he has to be in a certain place for us. The support has to be there.”

But is the message getting through?

“They get it,” Ruff said. “We’ve got a meeting with our core group after this. There is concern, but we know we’re a good team. We know we’ve got a goaltender that can win us games, we’ve got a group of forwards that can put the puck in the net enough to win games and we’ve already proven that we can defend with the best teams, and against the best teams.”

Ruff opted for a new look to help the team do so.

Tim Connolly centered Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford while Tim Kennedy was bumped up a line, in between Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier.

The Sabres’ newest addition, Raffi Torres, skated alongside Derek Roy and Jason Pominville, while Adam Mair, Matt Ellis and Pat Kaleta rounded out the fourth unit.

“Its been two weeks off,” Ruff said in returning. “I’ve been gone for 10 days of practice and I don’t care what you say, when the substitute teacher is there when you were in school, you goofed off.

“Now its back to focus and determination to play the system… and play it hard.”

The Sabres play the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night, 7:30 p.m. at HSBC Arena. The Sabres are encouraging fans to Go Red For Women. For more information click here.
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