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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
Lindy Ruff didn’t pull any punches regarding his team’s defensive play on Thursday, when they gave up 33 shots to Columbus during the first 40 minutes of action.

“That was a loosely contested game on our part,” Ruff said following the game. “To give up the number of shots that we did, to make some of the plays that we made. We made a lot of poor decisions. It might be as bad as we’ve moved the puck from defense to forward this year. It just tells you that if you don’t play well you’re not going to win unless you get tremendous goaltending.”

Columbus picked up 10 more shots in the third period for a season-high total of 43 shots against for the Sabres. It was the second time in the past five games that an opponent has eclipsed the 40-shot plateau in a game; and the sixth time in nine games this season that the Sabres have been outshot. Last year the Sabres only allowed 40 or more shots in a game on four different occasions.

Despite the shot disparity, the Sabres have won a league-high five games this season when being outshot in a game (along with Dallas and Los Angeles). Defenseman Andrej Sekera knows the team needs to do a better job of keeping shot totals down, and that starts with sticking to their defensive game plan.

“We didn’t play the system as we should, and it showed on the scoresheet with the shots,” Sekera said after today’s optional morning skate. “Everybody was a little later, a step behind, and that opened up space for (Columbus). We need to be more focused today.”

Sekera said there still may be a learning curve to the system with some of the newcomers, but he’s not about to use that as an excuse.

“I think we’re still getting used to each other. But it’s not just the defense; we’re a five man group out there. If the forwards take out the lanes, sometimes a shot will get through. We have to do a better job as the five-man group, not just the two of us.”

Buffalo defeated Florida 3-0 last Thursday at Bank Atlantic Center, but they have since added Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm following a trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver a week ago today. Even without the two new veterans in the lineup, Sekera said he noticed a different look to the Panthers from previous years.

“They have good speed and a good work ethic. They play a simple north-south game. And they are shooting from everywhere, and getting people in front of the net. That’s how you score nowadays: shoot the puck and get traffic in front. We have to prevent them from doing that.”

Ryan Miller is expected to get the start in net for Buffalo tonight against the Panthers (7 p.m., MSG). No other lineup changes are expected, as just 13 players took part in today’s optional morning skate.
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