Monday, 04.2.2012 / 3:16 PM ET
The Buffalo Sabres will be missing their top two defensemen again tomorrow when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town, in the back end of the home-and-home series that started with a 4-3 Toronto win on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
The news isn’t so good on Christian Ehrhoff, who was injured in Washington last Tuesday. Ruff did rule out Ehrhoff for the rest of the regular season, but said there’s a chance he could return for the playoffs if the Sabres were to qualify.
The absence of both players creates a huge void on the Buffalo blueline, and that was evident in Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs.
“If you take two of your top defensemen out of any team in the league, you’re a different team. You can go to almost any team and that’s the case,” said Ruff. “I thought we did some good things in the game, but we made some mistakes. We had some players in situations maybe they hadn’t been in, and it allowed Toronto to get the upper hand.”
LISTEN TO COMPLETE LINDY RUFF INTERVIEW
In other injury news, Matt Ellis has been cleared to play and could be ready to go on Tuesday if needed. Ellis has missed the last 10 games since injuring his knee in Ottawa on March 10. Nathan Gerbe continues his recovery from an upper body muscle strain. Ruff classified him as a “maybe” for Tuesday, saying that he could be at the point where he’s able to return to game action.
Buffalo’s red-hot 10-4-2 run through March enable the team to get back into playoff contention, and it also contributed to a pair of Sabres receiving monthly individual honors from the NHL. Ryan Miller was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the month, and Marcus Foligno was recognized as the league’s Rookie of the Month.
“It’s amazing what has happened this month, not just for myself, but the run the team has gone on,” said Foligno. “At the same time, it’s an honor to be Rookie of the Month. There are some great players in this league. For me to come in like I did and have success with Ennis and Stafford has been huge. I have to give those guys a lot of credit for my success.”
LISTEN TO COMPLETE MARCUS FOLIGNO INTERVIEW
Miller compiled a 10-3-2 record with a 2.17 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and two shutouts while starting 15 of Buffalo’s 16 March games. He won five straight starts from March 19-27, and went 10 consecutive games without suffering a regulation defeat (March 7-27, 8-0-2). Miller has started 11 straight games; 21 of the last 22 games; and 31 of Buffalo's last 33.
Despite joining Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Malkin as the league’s monthly award winners, Miller’s focus continues to be on one thing: winning the next game. That’s something they didn’t do in either game over the weekend.
LISTEN TO COMPLETE RYAN MILLER INTERVIEW
Buffalo’s two weekend losses, combined with Washington’s shootout win over Montreal on Saturday, leaves them two points back of the Capitals for eighth place in the Eastern Conference – with each team having three games left to play. However, Buffalo can’t finish the season in a tie with Washington because the Capitals own the tiebreaker. A win by Washington tonight in Tampa would almost force the Sabres to run the table with three straight wins to end the season in order to keep themselves in the postseason conversation.
“We just need to win and take care of our business,” Miller said today. “The focus becomes Tuesday. We had a tough weekend. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We didn’t play the way we probably needed to play. We’ve gotta do the job now and see how it falls.”