Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

March 8, 2007

TIM'S TAKE: Injury excuse can’t become a crutch for Sabres


BUFFALO — Paul Gaustad is Daniel Paille is Jiri Novotny is Adam Mair.

A few inches here, an extra gear there, the quartet isn’t far removed from the same vision in blue and gold. Hits from Gaustad and Mair might bear an extra sting, and Novotny might possess the tiniest bit more offensive potential, but in essence, the four are — or were before Novotny was dealt to Washington — interchangeable parts at Lindy Ruff’s dismissal.

The excuse that Buffalo had nine regulars out of the lineup, or whatever the exaggerated number was heading into Wednesday’s lone date with the Colorado Avalanche, is incorrect. Gaustad, Paille and Mair would not all play if healthy, and Andrew Peters would be sitting in the same seat he’s filling while injured. Novotny was dealt because he was one in a series and if the assumption that Paille’s broken finger is healing soundly is fact, there was no need for him either.

So set aside the excuse that Buffalo is still without half its roster for a second and it’s easier to focus on the fact that Buffalo still, despite its lofty spot atop the Eastern Conference, rarely plays with intensity for 60 minutes. Because of their aptitude for scoring in bunches, the Sabres seem to float through large sections each night, using Ryan Miller as the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card.

Wednesday’s loss to the Avalanche was no different, and Colorado’s effort should be a model for the Sabres to follow heading down the stretch.

The visitors had played a 2-0 defensive slugfest at Boston 24 hours prior, against a Bruins team that should be clawing for its playoff life. But the Avalanche still dug deep enough to put the clamps on the Sabres when they needed to, holding Buffalo to four shots in the final period.

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