TORONTO – In his 15 years coaching the Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff has had his share of highs and lows.
But Ruff, the NHL’s longest-tenured coach, says the Sabres’ current slump may be the toughest he’s seen in his lengthy time with the team.
“Right now it feels different. I’ve seen stretches. This might be my toughest stretch as a coach where pucks won’t go in the net,” said Ruff after Buffalo’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. The Sabres have just two wins in their last 11 games.
Buffalo’s inability to score has been the chief culprit in the Sabres’ slide. On their current three-game road losing streak, the Sabres have scored just three times while conceding goals eight times.
“I thought we got a lot of plays blocked around the front of the net and there’s a couple where I thought we chose to go back to the point,” Ruff said. “I don’t know if (the Leafs) had more than four or five chances in the last 40 minutes and turned it into a dump and chase game for us.”
The Sabres were without leading goal-scorer Thomas Vanek, who did take part in the pre-game warm-up and couldn’t start the game after feeling sick.
“Vanek, he’s either got food poisoning, some type of virus, flu,” Ruff said. “He wasn’t feeling well in warm-up. We had one other player—he ate at the same place, wasn’t feeling well. He started throwing up before the game.”
For their part, the players will be happy to be heading home for a rematch against the Leafs Friday night at the First Niagara Centre. Their only win of the month came at home in their opening game of 2012 against Edmonton on Jan. 3.
“It’s going to be difficult. It’s not going to be a perfect game that’s going to get us out of it,” said goaltender Ryan Miller, who gave up two goals on 28 shots on Tuesday. “It’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be nasty and we’re going to have to grind for it and then the pretty ones will start happening.”
After their brief stop at home, the Sabres head right back out for a tough road trip where they won’t be back home until next month. The all-star break will provide a brief respite. but it only comes after the sixth game of the seven-game road trip.