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Sabres Central

Pens continue to torment Sabres
By Rick Anderson
November 25, 2001

Sabres goalie Martin Biron swats at the puck to make a save in the first period while Pittsburgh's Billy Tibbetts battles his way into the crease during first period action.
[AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar]

It didn't take too long for the Buffalo Sabres to revert to their old dormant ways. After two outstanding games against Toronto and Calgary, the Sabres came up lame against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 3-1 to a team that is certainly not an NHL powerhouse this year.

The Penguins are not the team they were last year. Jaromir Jagr is gone, Mario Lemieux was still nursing a sore hip and Martin Straka was not playing. Without three of the key players who helped Pittsburgh beat the Sabres last year, the Sabres had no excuse. This was a great opportunity to finally beat the team that has tormented them the past couple years. But the Sabres played as if they had other things on their minds.

It has been asked over and over again, but this question keeps popping up about the Sabres. What makes them so inconsistent? After beating both the Leafs and the Flames, the Sabres traveled to Pittsburgh, where they have not fared too well in Melon Arena. They have scored a total of 7 goals in 5 regulation games there. To make matters worse, the Sabres are horrible on the road this year, winning only 2 games.

The Sabres players, who appeared to be coming out of their funk before Saturday's game, are right back into it after this meltdown in Pittsburgh. Players like Chris Gratton and Slava Kozlov are just not paying the price. They are not even going through the motions, as they seem to be frozen to the ice. It is time for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff to bench these two along with others who don't have the desire to put their bodies on the line for the cause.

One good period

The Sabres actually came out and played a solid first period. Goaltender Martin Biron stopped 16 shots during the first 20 minutes and looked extremely sharp.

The Sabres got a two-man advantage four minutes into the game and Alexei Zhitnik came in from the point, and slammed home a shot from the left circle at the 4:52 mark. It was Zhitnik's first of the season and the last goal Buffalo would score on the night. Once again Pens goalie Johan Hedberg would put a curse on Sabres shooters for the rest of the night, just as he had in last year's playoff series. The Sabres could muster only 19 shots on goal during the entire game and that left Ruff fuming after the game.

"That was probably the biggest thing I was screaming," said Ruff. "We didn't have a shot on goal for almost 10 minutes. You can't execute if you don't shoot the puck. Nobody wanted to shoot it."

Biron held the Pens at bay until 5:32 of the second stanza. In order for the Sabres to win on this night, Biron would have to take that one goal and shutout the Pens. That didn't happen as Biron was victimized on 3 of the Penguins 27 shots. Ex-Sabre Wayne Primeau got the puck up to Ian Moran, who blasted a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Biron.

With under 4 minutes to play, the Penguins scored the winning goal when Aleksey Morzov made a perfect pass to Jan Hrdina, who was streaking right in front of Biron. Hrdina made a dazzling tip-in past Biron and that finished off the Sabres for good. After that goal, the Ruff's players were already mentally aboard the flight home to Buffalo.

Kris Beech, who was part of the package Pittsburgh got from Washington for Jaromir Jagr, got his first of the season when he put a backhand from 10 feet out to beat Biron, putting away any hopes the Sabres had. Biron had been interfered with and was knocked off his feet. Replays clearly showed that the goal should have not counted, but the striped tandem of Pollock and Walkom would not hear any of Ruff's gruff.

Now Ruff has to redirect his gruff towards his players. The Sabres have won just two games on the road this season and they have to this complacent road syndrome. Benching players may not be enough for this team of underachievers. A major trade may be the only thing to shake the players up enough to get them to produce up to the level they displayed against the Leafs and the Flames this week.

Things don't get any better for the Sabres as they host Rangers on Tuesday. The Rangers are 2-0 against the Sabres so far and big Eric Lindros may have a little score to settle with Vaclav Varada. Seems that Varada got his stick up in Lindros' eye the last game which cost Varada a 3-game suspension.

Just when it appeared the Sabres had turned the corner on their season with two straight victories over top-notch teams, they fall right back on their faces again. If they don't upend the surging Rangers, then Buffalo will be 4 game under .500 once again. It may still be "early" in the season, but already time is running out on Ruff's crew.

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Copyright 2001 Sabres Central, all rights reserved

Sabres Central

Pens continue to torment Sabres
By Rick Anderson
November 25, 2001

Sabres goalie Martin Biron swats at the puck to make a save in the first period while Pittsburgh's Billy Tibbetts battles his way into the crease during first period action.
[AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar]

It didn't take too long for the Buffalo Sabres to revert to their old dormant ways. After two outstanding games against Toronto and Calgary, the Sabres came up lame against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 3-1 to a team that is certainly not an NHL powerhouse this year.

The Penguins are not the team they were last year. Jaromir Jagr is gone, Mario Lemieux was still nursing a sore hip and Martin Straka was not playing. Without three of the key players who helped Pittsburgh beat the Sabres last year, the Sabres had no excuse. This was a great opportunity to finally beat the team that has tormented them the past couple years. But the Sabres played as if they had other things on their minds.

It has been asked over and over again, but this question keeps popping up about the Sabres. What makes them so inconsistent? After beating both the Leafs and the Flames, the Sabres traveled to Pittsburgh, where they have not fared too well in Melon Arena. They have scored a total of 7 goals in 5 regulation games there. To make matters worse, the Sabres are horrible on the road this year, winning only 2 games.

The Sabres players, who appeared to be coming out of their funk before Saturday's game, are right back into it after this meltdown in Pittsburgh. Players like Chris Gratton and Slava Kozlov are just not paying the price. They are not even going through the motions, as they seem to be frozen to the ice. It is time for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff to bench these two along with others who don't have the desire to put their bodies on the line for the cause.

One good period

The Sabres actually came out and played a solid first period. Goaltender Martin Biron stopped 16 shots during the first 20 minutes and looked extremely sharp.

The Sabres got a two-man advantage four minutes into the game and Alexei Zhitnik came in from the point, and slammed home a shot from the left circle at the 4:52 mark. It was Zhitnik's first of the season and the last goal Buffalo would score on the night. Once again Pens goalie Johan Hedberg would put a curse on Sabres shooters for the rest of the night, just as he had in last year's playoff series. The Sabres could muster only 19 shots on goal during the entire game and that left Ruff fuming after the game.

"That was probably the biggest thing I was screaming," said Ruff. "We didn't have a shot on goal for almost 10 minutes. You can't execute if you don't shoot the puck. Nobody wanted to shoot it."

Biron held the Pens at bay until 5:32 of the second stanza. In order for the Sabres to win on this night, Biron would have to take that one goal and shutout the Pens. That didn't happen as Biron was victimized on 3 of the Penguins 27 shots. Ex-Sabre Wayne Primeau got the puck up to Ian Moran, who blasted a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Biron.

With under 4 minutes to play, the Penguins scored the winning goal when Aleksey Morzov made a perfect pass to Jan Hrdina, who was streaking right in front of Biron. Hrdina made a dazzling tip-in past Biron and that finished off the Sabres for good. After that goal, the Ruff's players were already mentally aboard the flight home to Buffalo.

Kris Beech, who was part of the package Pittsburgh got from Washington for Jaromir Jagr, got his first of the season when he put a backhand from 10 feet out to beat Biron, putting away any hopes the Sabres had. Biron had been interfered with and was knocked off his feet. Replays clearly showed that the goal should have not counted, but the striped tandem of Pollock and Walkom would not hear any of Ruff's gruff.

Now Ruff has to redirect his gruff towards his players. The Sabres have won just two games on the road this season and they have to this complacent road syndrome. Benching players may not be enough for this team of underachievers. A major trade may be the only thing to shake the players up enough to get them to produce up to the level they displayed against the Leafs and the Flames this week.

Things don't get any better for the Sabres as they host Rangers on Tuesday. The Rangers are 2-0 against the Sabres so far and big Eric Lindros may have a little score to settle with Vaclav Varada. Seems that Varada got his stick up in Lindros' eye the last game which cost Varada a 3-game suspension.

Just when it appeared the Sabres had turned the corner on their season with two straight victories over top-notch teams, they fall right back on their faces again. If they don't upend the surging Rangers, then Buffalo will be 4 game under .500 once again. It may still be "early" in the season, but already time is running out on Ruff's crew.

     HOME           SEASON'S RESULTS      SABRE TALK MESSAGE BOARD      NEWSROOM      99 PLAYOFFS    
THE PLAYERS      STATISTICS      SCHEDULE      PROSPECTS      LIVE GAME RADIO      HISTORY      TEAM INFO     
PHOTO GALLERY     MULTIMEDIA      SABRES POLL      TROPHY CASE      LINKS      THE STAFF      E-MAIL SABRESWORD

Copyright 2001 Sabres Central, all rights reserved