Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

December 23, 2011

Struggling Sabres take a break

BUFFALO — Before the struggling Sabres left the ice Friday and began a much needed two-day Christmas break, captain Jason Pominville called his teammates together and addressed them, giving them some advice to take into the holiday.

What did he say following the hour-long practice inside the First Niagara Center?

“Just kind of wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and enjoying the time off,” said Pominville, who refused to reveal his full message.

Clearly, the reeling Sabres, losers three straight and eight of the last 11, need a couple of days away from hockey to clear their heads.

“We’ve been living, breathing (what) seems like the same day for a good month,” Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “We’ve had a lot of criticism. We haven’t played the way we want to play and haven’t gotten the results we wanted.

“We totally get away from it, listen to nothing but Christmas music and eat pie and turkey and whatever it may be. Maybe put on a couple extra pounds and battle in front of the net.”

What kind of pie, Jordan?

“Pumpkin, for me,” he said.

Right now, maybe some nice dessert will help. Nothing is going the Sabres’ way. They’ve plummeted to 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They’re down nine players to injury. On Thursday in Toronto, they pumped 42 shots on goal during a strong effort, yet still lost 3-2.

“The frustrating part,” Pominville said, “is you put that much effort in and you don’t get the results you want. ... This break kind of has to be an advantage for us to regroup, refocus and re-energize ourselves for what’s ahead of us.”

Buffalo goes back to work at home Monday against Washington. For the Sabres, the brief pause could be a line in the sand, a chance to treat the next three-plus months like a fresh season.

That happened last year. Following an awful 5-2 loss Dec. 27 in Calgary, the Sabres regrouped, storming from 12th to seventh with a 29-11-6 finish.

“We’re going to have to be one of the best teams from here on out to climb in the standings, to keep moving,” Pominville said. “Part of the reason we were successful last year was our play with the puck and our defensive play was really solid.”

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