The Buffalo Sabres schedule recently has been filled with teams that like to lock it down on defense. They defeated Dallas in a shootout on Friday and then fell to Tampa Bay by one goal in regulation on Saturday. The Sabres will go up against another team known for the trap tomorrow night when they host the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center.
The Devils currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the Atlantic Division. While New Jersey is 11th in the league in scoring and in the middle of the road in goals against, they still have a reputation as a tight checking team that can frustrate opponents.
“They like to clog up things in the neural zone and they do a good job in the D zone trying to surround the puck with a lot of guys. So we've got to be ready,” said Sabres center Derek Roy
after this morning's practice. “We were trying to work on spreading the ice out, getting guys up high, trying to create some confusion in the offensive zone.” CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL DEREK ROY INTERVIEW
Head coach Lindy Ruff called many of the mistakes his team made against Tampa Bay “self-inflicted.” When preparing for New Jersey, he indicated that his team has been working on getting more pucks on net and driving to the goal.
“It had a lot more to do with what we were doing than what Tampa was doing,” Ruff said. “I think almost every team in this league has learned to be frustrating defensively and if you can't frustrate the other team, especially when you have a lead, you usually end up losing the game.”
Ruff watched today's practice from the bench for the first time since breaking three ribs in practice a week ago. He's coached the last three games from the press box and assistant coach James Patrick has been in charge of calling out the lines down on the ice. Although he's feeling better, Ruff still wasn't sure after today's practice if he'd be back behind the bench tomorrow night.
“I was hoping for last game,” Ruff explained. “Even if I do go back, I think even if I go back tomorrow, I'm going to need help because there are situations where I still can't vocalize loud enough and especially with the crowd, [I won't be able to] react quick enough to have people ready. If I do go back there, I'll have James sort of in the same role.”
Last game, Ruff said four pucks were shot into the bench during Saturday's game and he joked that standing back there may not be the safest place to be.
“Teppo got hit with one of them. I'd like to laugh about it, but I don't want to because I don't want to get hit at the same time,” Ruff said. “If I hang out by the tunnel, there's a good chance I'd probably get hit. If I stay in the same spot I normally do, I won't. I don't think we can change too much.”
Lines from today's practice:
Thomas-Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason PominvilleNathan Gerbe
-Tyler Ennis-Drew StaffordVille Leino
-Paul Gaustad-Patrick KaletaBrad Boyes
-Matt Ellis-Zack Kassian
All seven defensemen and goaltenders Ryan Miller
and Jhonas Enroth
participated as well.
Winger Cody McCormick
did not skate. He suffered an upper-body injury on Friday and Ruff said he's improving.
Ruff also updated the media on the condition of center Jochen Hecht
, who has been out with post-concussion symptoms since Jan. 21 after being hit by T.J. Oshie in St. Louis. Hecht underwent a non-surgical procedure on his neck and as of now, there's still a chance he may be back before the end of the season.
“Nobody has shut him down so he's still in the procedure of working his way back,” Ruff said.