Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Sabres Central

Two wins give Sabres some life
By Rick Anderson
Dec. 7, 2002

Miroslav Satan, who scored a hat trick on the Rangers, tries to sneak between the Rangers' Petr Nedved (93) and Darius Kasparaitis, who eventually got the puck.
[AP Photo/Paul Hawthorne]

Lindy Ruff feels like he has been raked over the coals this year. Maybe with the help of a player named Satan, the beleaguered Sabres coach could possibly salvage the season and his job. The Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-1, winning their second straight game. However, Ruff is not anywhere out of the woods yet.

This season has been a nightmare for Ruff. The problems he has had to face would be insurmountable for even the Scotty Bowmans of the NHL. First there was the Rigas scandal and the team going into the season without an owner. With league commissioner Gary Bettman looking over his shoulder as the acting team president, Ruff had to get his players concentrating on the game. Ruff also entered the season on his last year of contract with the Sabres. Under normal circumstances, that put Ruff's job on the line.

Going 17 games with just one win was one of the biggest nightmare's in Ruff's professional career. The Sabres continued their losing ways against Toronto on Saturday 3-1 when former Sabre Alexander Mogilny scored a goal and had two assists. 17 games is too long of a stretch to have only one win, regardless of the situation. Two other NHL coaches lost their jobs this week. To make matters even worse was that the coaches who got fired, from Calgary and San Jose, had better records than the Sabres. With ownership in place, Ruff would probably be out on the streets right now, or applying for those coaching vacancies.

"It would probably be a safe assessment," acknowledged Ruff about probably being fired a month ago if the Sabres weren't ownerless. "But maybe if owners were here, things would be different, too. You can look at both ways."

Ruff gave indications on how desperate his situation is when he held and hour and a half meeting with the players this week. He let his guts spill out and lashed out at players individually in a last ditch effort to reach the team.

"Obviously, there are areas in which our team has lacked," indicated Ruff. "I've talked about finish. You can put guys in position to do the job. You can get them there. You can put the puck on their stick, but you can't will the puck in the net. If I get fired because of that, I can live with it."

While it has been rumored that there is a huge rift between the players and Ruff, none of the current players have mentioned that. In fact, they have been defending the besieged coach.

"You hear so many people say "Lindy this and Lindy that,' " fumed Ray. "It's not Lindy's fault. The coaches have a game plan they figure can beat another team, and it's proven that it can work. It's a matter of guys executing it. Lindy's not losing us games."

Former players reveal friction with Ruff

While the current players seem to be in Ruff's camp, that certainly is not the case with recent Sabres departures.

Jason Woolley is in nirvana in Detroit. He has come out to give a veteran's view of what has been happening behind the closed locker room doors.

Woolley has been a good fit in the Red Wings lineup. While having to sit up in the press box several times this season under Ruff, he is reborn in Detroit. Woolley can't figure Ruff out.

"I always felt it wasn't the Lindy Ruff I knew." explained Woolley about Ruff's handling of players the last two years. "I saw a lot of older guys get driven out of there. You look at Dougie ( Gilmour) and Andy (Andreychuk), guys that came here with a lot of expectations and great attitudes, leaving miserable and not liking the game.

"Do you blame it on one guy, the head coach? I don't know. It was a combination of a few things, but that seemed to be the common denominator. I talked to Lindy (when Ruff put him on waivers), and it was the Lindy Ruff that I know. It was nice to talk to him on the way out instead of the coach Lindy Ruff."

Doug Gilmour had a lot to say about the Sabres organization and Ruff when he left the team also. Same with Andreychuk. It is politically correct for the players who are still on the team to say nice things about their coach. If and Ruff ever gets his walking papers, it may be a much different song coming from those players.

Sabres breakout

The players responded to Ruff's tough talk with an impressive 4-0 win at home against Anaheim Wednesday night. Curtis Brown, who has been on Ruff's S-list for the past two season, broke out with his first NHL hat trick ever. It couldn't have come soon enough for Ruff, but he is hoping that the message got across.

JP Dumont skates into Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn in an attempt to jar the puck out.
[AP Photo/Paul Hawthorne]

"It speaks for itself what Curtis did,'' lauded Ruff. "He dominated on faceoffs. He did a great job penalty killing. He's at that time of his career where we need him as one of those offensive leaders.''

Brown acknowledged that the players needed a tongue lashing and he benefitted from it. He was also happy that he finally got his first hat trick.

"November was real tough on us, and tonight the best part was the win,'' admitted Brown. "When you have success at a team game like this, it's fun."

"You don't really think of it, and then all of a sudden it happens," Brown said about the hat trick. "I've been in situations where you get two quick goals and then don't even touch the puck the rest of the night.''

Friday night, the Sabres had another player in a funk get the 3-goal trick. Miroslav Satan, who has had one of his worst starts in his NHL career, notched his first hat trick of the season and 4th of his career. It was also the second against the Rangers, who he always seems to do well against.

"Let's keep it rolling," rejoiced Satan. "Hopefully somebody will do it tomorrow (get another hat trick). And then that will probably be another win."

Satan reflected what must have been driven home by Ruff in that blistering meeting earlier in the week.

"We made it clear that everybody has to try a little harder," emphasized Satan. "Complete team efforts are necessary to win. Everybody has to be sharp and nobody can make mistakes."

Satan was like his old self against the Rangers. Late in the first period, with the Sabres two men up, Chris Gratton won the draw and the puck went back to Satan at the point. He rifled past 19-year old goalie Dan Blackburn tying the game up at 1.

In the second period, Satan picked up the puck in the neutral zone after a collision between Ales Kotalik and Mikael Samuelsson and he came storming in Blackburn. Satan blew past Dave Karpa and then backhanded a shot top shelf over Blackburn's shoulder. The Rangers were howling that Kotalik should have been penalized for tripping Samuelsson.

"That was frustrating, but things happen,"said Samuelsson about being hauled down. "I guess the referee didn't think it was a penalty. But it's not that why we lost the game."

Just under a minute later, Dmitri Kalinin also got in alone on Blackburn and got his shot high over the Rangers' goalie making it 3-1.

"We let down our guard a bit," admitted Blackburn. "They managed to get a few wide-open chances, and they made some great shots on net."

Satan added his third goal of the game in the third period when the Rangers pulled their goalie in favor of the extra attacker late in the game.

Biron back on track

Martin Biron, who has had an even rougher start than he did last season, got his game back with his first shutout of the season Wednesday against the Mighty Ducks. He made 22 stops in recording his 12th career NHL shutout.

"Every bounce went for us,'' said Biron. "Guys were in the right position. We need a lot more of that.''

Against the high-octane Rangers offense, Biron had to be spectacular to secure the win. Biron showed that he was paying attention to his master, Dominik Hasek, all those years. He made some spectacular saves against the Rangers, stopping 32 shots. The first goal of the game, by Eric Lindros, was a case of Biron not reacting soon enough.

"I got caught out of position a little bit," conceded Biron. "I like to make those saves. I got a couple of them in the second period.

"The key of the game was we gave up the first goal and the heads stayed up, the guys kept skating, and we kept creating things. "

With the Sabres matching their longest winning streak at two, they now focus their sights on winning three in a row. Saturday night they host the Washington Capitals, who came from behind to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 7-6.

Ruff is finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

"It looks like the recipe for winning right now is that we need one guy to score a hat trick and a goaltender to make some big saves," Ruff said with a twinkle in his eye. "Part of what it's all about is getting guys hot and getting guys on a roll. Miro scored a couple of highlight-reel goals and he probably had the hit of the game (when Satan slammed into Lindros along the boards)."

Hamister team pleads for assistance

Possibly some bad news came out yesterday that the Mark Hamister/Todd Berman ownership team that still needs league approval before taking over the team are requesting some major financial breaks from the state, city and Erie County. This may not sit well with the taxpayers who are already footing bigger tax bills while seeing their services cut. The city of Buffalo had to cut both teachers along with their police force last year when funds ran dry. The State of New York is in deep financial mess, as are the majority of the states.

State Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz, from Cheektowaga, doesn't think Hamister's request will fall on sympathetic ears.

"Given the kinds of difficult decisions we're going to have to make in the state budget, and while I've been a 30-year season ticket holder of the Sabres, I think people would be outraged if we gave cash to a professional hockey team," asserted Tokasz.

It was reported that Hamister is requesting as much as $35 million combined from State, city and county governments.

Rumors circulated right before Hamister bid for the Sabres at $60 million was accepted, that he was hoping to get the $50 million that the State had pledged for construction of Adelphia's planned office complex on the waterfront. Since the Rigas scandal unfolded, those plans have been scuttled. Hamister was hoping to have those funds diverted to his purchasing the team.

"Absolutely untrue," argued Charles Gargano, the president of the Empire State Development Corp. "We've always been supportive, but everyone realizes the tough fiscal realities the state is currently facing," he added.

Whether this latest snag will throw a wrench into the NHL officially approving the deal with Hamister and Berman remains to be seen. Thomas Golisano, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win both the State governor's post and the Sabres, may yet become the owner of the Sabres if Hamister is forced to withdraw his bid because of the lack of government support.

Sabres Talk

Satan is the man who the Sabres look to for offensive play. Until Friday night, Satan's play was quite offensive - to Ruff.

"Sometimes I have seven shots and I don't score a goal," said Satan. "Today I didn't feel I had many shots, but those I had went in," said Satan, who took five shots.

"For some reason, now we're all able to play without making mistakes. Hopefully we can stay focused and keep this ball rolling."

The Rangers got some more bad news when their top scorer, Pavel Bure, injured his left knee in a collision with Brown in the second period. Brown's knee hit Bure's knee and the Ranger scoring champ went down in a hump. It was originally diagnosed as a knee sprain, but he will have an MRI done on the knee to see the extent of the injury. Some reports say he may be lost for the season.

"I don't know if you want to call it snowballing," uttered Rangers coach Bryan Trottier. "It (Bure's injury) doesn't help. It's just unfortunate that nobody sees these things on the ice. There are two sets of eyes and you'd like to be able to count on those kinds of things."

"We can't focus on who's going down," Bobby Holik said. "We've got to focus on who's healthy and the players who have a chance now to play a little bit more than they usually do. Everybody has to do a little extra."

Bure has had numerous surgeries on his other knee, so it is fortunate at least that isn't the knee he hurt against the Sabres.

"There's nothing we can do about it," said Lindros. "As a group, we must overcome this. That's the bottom line."


Copyright 2002 Sabres Central, all rights reserved