Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

March 2, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: Sabres end homestand with a yawn

BUFFALO — If you missed the Sabres five-game homestand, one of those make-or-break portions of their schedule, here’s the only clip you needed to see.

Late in the third period and trailing by a 3-2 count to league-leading Detroit on Sunday, Derek Roy and Toni Lydman stood behind the net, both half-heartedly digging for a puck with Pavel Datsyuk. Both Sabres seemed to be waiting for the other to pry the rubber free. Neither did.

Datsyuk calmly dropped a pass in front to Kirk Maltby, who drilled a shot past Ryan Miller for the final dagger in a 4-2 decision, the Sabres fourth loss of the homestand. With the season on the line and the schedule handing them a comfortable stretch of home games with days off between, Buffalo again came up empty. The Sabres finished the homestand with just three of a possible 10 points, and instead of gaining ground on the pack, slipped to three points behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot.

What’s most disconcerting is the Sabres lack of fight at a time when they should be showing their fangs most. To put the team’s effort in perspective, with just over two minutes to play and Buffalo trailing by a pair of goals, Lindy Ruff tapped the combination of Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta. Ruff was obviously fed up with most of his forwards, many of whom found themselves with new linemates as the night progressed.

He said Mair and Kaleta gave his team energy in the first period, “but after that we were hardpressed to find any energy.”

But the fact that Ruff, who has sparingly used Kaleta since his recall from Rochester, would feel the agitator was his best option late with a two-goal deficit speaks volumes about the waning confidence he has in his roster.

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