Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 14, 2008

SCHMITT: Ruff knew Friday wasn't Lalime's fault

BUFFALO — There have to be nights like these once in a while. Nights when even guys like Thomas Vanek can’t find the net. When Pascal Leclaire looks like Roberto Luongo.

Everything was out of sorts as the Sabres buzzed around the Columbus net, yet couldn’t hammer anything past Leclaire in what wound up an ugly 6-1 loss Friday.

In the understatement of the night, Patrick Lalime said “that wasn’t the kind of start you want to have,” after stopping just three of the Blue Jackets’ six first-period shots.

Well said.

But the biggest, and perhaps most important, move of the night came at the end of the second intermission. After pulling Lalime in the middle of the second period, Lindy Ruff stuck his veteran backup back between the pipes for the third period.

The message was clear to Lalime then, and was further crystallized to the media in the postgame press conference.

“I was just trying to do anything to get an edge,” Ruff said about pulling his starter. “I wasn’t pulling him because it was his fault ... you’ve got to blame him on the fourth goal, but you can’t blame him on the first three.”

Lalime noticed.

“I was really glad he put me back in,” he said

Ruff was perturbed following Friday’s loss, largely because a team that’s worked its way into a advantageous early-season position continues to throw away points to unworthy opponents. Atlanta. Tampa Bay. Colorado. Buffalo has found a way to stick near the top through the first five weeks, but have let a few points slip through that they’ll have trouble getting back come spring.

And although he by no means stole one for the Sabres, Lalime didn’t give it away. Buffalo made silly mistakes, giving the Jackets golden opportunities. Give the visitors credit. They took advantage.

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