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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Thoams Vanek (Getty Images)
The Buffalo Sabres are getting a chance to catch their breath this week - before catching a plane to commence a two-week road trip.

The team has four days in between games, marking their longest break since October 4. The stretch allows for not only some much needed rest, but for some solid on-ice workout sessions.

“We haven’t really had a good practice in a long time,” said Derek Roy. “We’ve had a lot of games, so our practices have been kind of short with flow drills just to get your legs going. Today was a hard working day.”

The Sabres practiced for more than an hour on Monday afternoon, beginning preparation for an outing that will see them play seven games away from HSBC Arena – beginning in Atlanta on Thursday.

“Obviously it gave us a chance to give some of our players an extra day off, which I think is important. If we were playing, those nagging little injuries might get worse,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “This is a great break for a couple players, probably more than a couple. We had probably three or four that practiced that could have used another day too.”

Among those taking a maintenance day were defensemen Tyler Myers and Steve Montador. Both are expected to be back on Tuesday. Some, however, are seeking extra work to prepare for the trip; including Pat Kaleta and Thomas Vanek.

“It’s nice to get some practice time,” Vanek said. “For myself it’s good because I’ve been struggling a little bit. I can work a little extra in practice, do some shooting before and after and hopefully find the [scoring] touch again.”

Familiarity may help him do so, as Ruff shifted the winger to play with long-time partners Derek Roy and Drew Stafford on Monday.

The move dropped Clarke MacArthur to play alongside Tim Kennedy and Mike Grier while Paul Gaustad joined Adam Mair, Matt Ellis and Kaleta.
Ruff did not confirm whether Kaleta would be back in the lineup on Thursday. The winger is looking to make his return from a lower body injury that has kept him sidelined since Dec. 27, and says that he finally feels ready.

“Last week I just wasn’t there yet to the point where I’m going to take someone out of the lineup, especially when everyone in here is playing as well as they have,” Kaleta said. “I’m just focused on getting it better and hopefully I can get in [the lineup] Thursday.”

The Sabres begin their annual West Coast swing in Atlanta before heading to New York to take on the Islanders on Saturday. Stops in Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver could give the team a chance to continue their dominance against the opposing conference, where they have a 7-0-1 record.

“The teams out West aren’t too familiar with us,” Mike Grier said. “I think its to our advantage that we have four lines that can contribute and score goals. We’re going to need that. The trip is going to be a grind, tough travel and we’re going to need everyone.”

“[It gives you] an opportunity,” Ruff said of the trip. “Other teams look at you and see, boy, this team’s going on the road for an extended period of time and we should be able to pick up some ground. We’d like to send the message that we don’t want anyone to pick up any ground on us. We want to play above .500 on the road.

“I think we’re 12-6 [away from HSBC Arena]… I want to maintain that. I want to go on the road and play good, consistent, hard hockey. That’s the message that we want to send.”
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