By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — After watching his team surrender 18 shots in the first period, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff decided he’d seen enough on Sunday.
With no disrespect to Ryan Miller, who had stopped 16 of those shots, Ruff decided at the break to insert Patrick Lalime for just the second time in over a month.
Ruff said following the team’s 3-0 loss to Carolina that he wasn’t unhappy with Miller’s showing, he simply hoped his team would get more focused.
“I explained, we weren’t playing well enough in front of him. I said we’re going to put Patty in and maybe you’ll play a little better in front of him,” Ruff said. “Ryan can’t skate up the ice and compete from the blueline down. I thought he did his part.”
Craig Rivet corroborated Ruff’s story, and said the coach’s comments should put the Sabres on notice.
“It’s a tough situation on the goaltenders when we’re leaving them out to dry like that,” Rivet said. “Obviously, we’ve been relying on our goaltenders far too much. He told us if we’re not going to work for one goaltender, maybe we’ll work for another.
“Right there, that’s pretty embarrassing for all the players in this room.”
Lalime started by making a spectacular save in the second period on Ray Whitney, just after a puck hit Anton Babchuk in the face.
Whitney came in and deked, Lalime went to the ice and it appeared that Whitney would easily stick the puck in an empty side. Lalime somehow reached his arm out, though, and made the save.
Lalime was helped out on an ensuing power play when the Hurricanes hit a pair of goal posts, but played well enough on the night to earn third-star honors.
He finished with 29 saves.
It seemed the Sabres had rectified their early-season HSBC Arena woes prior to Sunday’s game.
Buffalo opened the season just 10-9-1 at home, but had won six of seven before Sunday’s poor showing.
“We talked about this early in the year. As the year went on, I thought we played better at home,” Jason Pominville said. “But home has to be a tough place to play. Sometimes, you make it a little harder on yourself.
“That’s when you have to simplify your game and make sure you get pucks deep and we kind of got away from that tonight.”
It still looks like Ruff can’t figure out what to do with Jochen Hecht, who keeps getting bounced from line to line.
On Sunday, Hecht was a minus-one, lost seven of the nine face-offs he took, and had two of the team’s 10 giveaways.
Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.