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HANGIN' TOUGH

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 12:30 AM / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow  - Sabres.com (@kwsnow)
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HANGIN\' TOUGH
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OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres looked like they were concocting the perfect recipe for success. With nine players out of the lineup, they were relying on a cautious approach and their star goaltender to try and win a road game in Ottawa. But all it took was Erik Condra’s goal at 7:59 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and the Senators went on to defeat the Sabres 4-1 at Scotiabank Place.

While the game may have looked boring to the fans, it’s exactly what the Sabres have to do right now with all the injuries they are trying to play through. Instead of trading scoring chances with the opposition, they need to play a low chance game that limits mistakes at both ends of the ice. For two periods they were doing just that.

“For probably the first 40, it was a pretty even game,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought in the second period we got it going with five or six opportunities. And we knew that we couldn’t play run and gun with them. But I thought we created some good opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”

CLICK TO LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S POST-GAME COMMENTS

Ottawa opened the scoring in the first period when Zack Smith fought off Jordan Leopold in front to cash in a rebound following a breakaway attempt by Chris Neil. Ryan Miller made the initial save on Neil, but Leopold swung and missed on the rebound and Smith made no mistake.

“I was backchecking and the puck ended up in my feet,” said Leopold. “I thought I had it surrounded. You’ve gotta give him credit for getting his stick on it. But normally 99 out of 100 times I’ll get to those pucks.”

Ottawa let Buffalo hang around, and the Sabres made them pay midway the second period on the power play. With Thomas Vanek parked in front screening Craig Anderson, Leopold fired a low shot from the half wall that found the back of the net.  

From there the Sabres turned to Miller to keep them in the game. He made several key stops in the contest, and couldn’t be faulted for any of three goals that got past him. Of his 35 saves, the biggest one came in the second period when he kicked out his left pad to rob Kaspars Daugavins who was all alone in the slot.

We’re trying to play a simple game. We’re not in the position now where we can be too fancy. We’ve gotta establish the simple stuff, get some energy. I thought we battled pretty hard. It was a tight game and a tough way to lose. - Ryan Miller
Ottawa took the lead in the third on Condra’s goal, and added followed that up with an insurance marker from Erik Karlsson at 17:49. Condra closed out the scoring with an empty netter 25 seconds later.

Even with the final score, it was a chance for Miller to bounce back from Saturday’s 8-3 drubbing in Pittsburgh.

“I felt more like myself. It was nice to stay in the game,” Miller joked, referring to being pulled twice in Saturday’s loss. “I wanted to be there for the guys, and I felt better. It felt like it was a good step forward for myself. I thought we stepped forward as a team in some areas too. We’ll try and put this away, go to Toronto and get it done.”

Miller knows they are in tough with all the injuries, and each night they have to formulate a game plan that keeps them within striking distance.

“We’re trying to play a simple game. We’re not in the position now where we can be too fancy. We’ve gotta establish the simple stuff, get some energy. I thought we battled pretty hard. It was a tight game and a tough way to lose.”

Derek Whitmore and Marcus Foligno made their NHL debuts tonight for Buffalo. Whitmore skated 14:08 and had 2 shots on goal, while Foligno played 13:19 and registered a pair of hits.

NOTES: Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy), Jochen Hecht (lower body) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) were Buffalo’s scratches. The Sabres have now lost 133 man games to injury this season … Colin Stuart and Corey Tropp were placed on injured reserve today.

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