There are a few buzzwords being tossed around the Buffalo Sabres locker room this week:
Among them are frustration, anger and focus.
After relinquishing a two-goal lead against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, before surrendering a goal in overtime to seal a 4-3 loss, it’s understandable to see why. Add that to the fact that the team hasn’t claimed two points in a game since January 29 and its easy to be deflated heading into the Olympic break.
As Head Coach Lindy Ruff said Friday, “The hope tank is pretty low and the frustration meter is right near the top.”
But while the overall feeling in the locker room resonated with a sense of aggravation and disappointment, there was still another theme the players echoed following Friday’s practice: that it’s not time to panic.
“I don’t think you can come into the year and not have a down somewhere in the year,” said Jochen Hecht
. “It’s a long season, with a lot of games, and you’re going to get into a little bit of losing streak somewhere. It’s just a matter of how we process it and get out of it.”
“We know how we got here, we know what it takes to win,” Steve Montador said. “We had a lot of breaks go our way early on, and now is the time to be able to assess what type of player you are, what type of team you are and what type of character you have based on the situation that we’re going through.
“We want to go [into the break] on a high note and continue improving, gaining points and moving up the ladder.”
The team took part in a 30-minute skate on Friday afternoon at HSBC Arena and discussed preparing for the final game before the Olympic break, facing San Jose on Saturday.
Buffalo’s game plan for the Sharks and their answer of how to break out of the slump were one and the same – to stop erring on the side of caution.
“We need to play our game,” Ruff said. “And we need to believe that if we play our game, we’re still going to make the mistakes, we’re going to need some saves, we’re going to create some opportunities, but we’re going to do it our way. And our way is an aggressive way.
“That is, take your lumps, but keep playing the system. Keep going after it. Keep trusting that we’re going to create the opportunities we need if we go after it.”
“I think everybody’s a little bit frustrated, but that’s normal if you don’t win and get on a losing streak like this,” Hecht said. “Sticks are getting squeezed a little tighter, but we have to go out there and play our game, stay relaxed and go after the win. Not anything else.”
“Mistakes are going to happen, penalties happen. Slight losses of focus always going to happen,” Montador said. “That’s why we’re human, that’s why we’re athletes and that’s why one team wins and one team doesn’t. It’s correcting them when you can, recognizing them when you can… it’s playing with the confidence and the focus that you need.”
participated in Friday's skate with the team, but was far from full-board. The winger said, however, if needed that he would play on Saturday against San Jose.
"I love his attitude," laughed Ruff. "I really do, but he hasn’t even had a practice yet. That’s the thing you really like about him, and we’ve really missed his energy. He really played well for us, and in the two weeks we’ll get him back to where we need him.
QUOTABLE: Henrik Tallinder on losing the Northeast Division lead to the Ottawa Senators:
"It’s tougher to be hunted than to be the hunter. Now we’re the hunter... We can hunt them down."