Niagara Gazette

March 12, 2007

SABRES: Team hits the road in search of a fresh start

By Nate Beutel

BUFFALO — If you’ve listened to sportstalk radio in Western New York as of late, you’d think the season was over for the Buffalo Sabres after dropping all three games of their recent homestand.

Well the team apparently doesn’t listen and has different thoughts.

“I don’t think anybody is panicking,” forward Dainius Zubrus said after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

While panic might not be setting in just yet for Buffalo, there’s no doubting the fact that the New Jersey Devils are now one point behind the Sabres for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo currently has 93 points, which has dropped it to fourth in the race for the President’s Trophy.

“We’d be lying to say we’re not looking at the standings,” forward Jason Pominville said. “We know it’s there.”

Yet at the same point, the Sabres hit the road for the next four games, which gives them an opportunity to clear their heads, according to Pominville.

“It’s nice to go out on the road,” he said. “We need to forget everything, refocus, regroup and hopefully get some wins.”

It won’t be easy though.

The Sabres will play at explosive Pittsburgh today before traveling to the state of Florida for a back-to-back with the Panthers and Lightning on Thursday and Friday. The trip concludes Sunday in Atlanta.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows his squad will have to get back to basics if they expect to stay atop the standings and get back on track while on the road.

“There’s no room now,” he said. “We’re the team that has to pick it up. We’ve got to go on the road and do some damage.”

Buffalo has been the league’s best road team this season with a 21-9-2 record away from HSBC Arena, which is encouraging to Pominville.

“We’ve been a real good road team this year,” he said. “And you have to be a good road team if you want to win in the playoffs.”

So despite Ruff’s disappointment with the homestand, he’s not ready to get too anxious.

“This is where you grow,” he said. “This is where you end up becoming a better team.”

Zubrus agreed.

“Our mindset is to play better and win every game. I think everyone knows this team is good enough to beat anybody.”

Contact Nate Beutel at 282-2311, Ext. 2262.