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This meeting could have lasted a long time.

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called his team together Saturday morning to discuss matters in light of the 7-3 home loss to the Phoenix Coyotes the night before.

With the Stars on Ice show using HSBC Arena, the Sabres had no ice time for practice. That left plenty of time for Ruff to review skeins of film. He had all sorts of gruesome footage from which to choose.

Instead, Ruff showed one snippet. Then he asked his troops to focus on today's game with the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning at the arena (2:00; Empire; 107.7).

"We've put it behind us already," Ruff said of the brutal defeat that snapped an impressive four-game win streak, including two victories over New Jersey and one over Ottawa. "We only looked at one clip, and that one clip summed up everything."

Ruff's replay was of the Coyotes' first goal. But it easily could have been any number of moments that frustratingly looked the same: a turnover plus poor defensive positioning plus mental errors equals a great scoring chance for Phoenix.

Buffalo can only hope that equation won't play out again today. Although Tampa Bay is skating smack dab into another 50-loss season, it is coming off a scoreless tie Saturday with Philadelphia and a 3-2 victory over St. Louis.

Then there's that little hang-up the Sabres seem to have with the dregs of the NHL. Atlanta, Columbus, Florida and Montreal all have beaten Buffalo the past few weeks. Tampa Bay won, 4-2, at home Feb. 1.

Could the loss to the Coyotes at least be a motivator?

"It should. It should," goaltender Dominik Hasek said. "After a loss like that we should be more focused, and our determination should be there. We lost a game against Tampa three weeks ago and lost some games at home against, like, Columbus. Those games don't matter now, but we need to beat this team."

Hasek, riding the longest scoreless stretch of his magnificent career, entered the Phoenix game on back-to-back shutouts. But he was lifted during the second intermission after allowing four goals on 22 shots.

Hasek has started 16 of the Sabres' past 19 games and should be the man again this afternoon. Both he and Ruff rebuffed any possibility that fatigue was a factor in the crease Friday.

"Being tired wasn't an issue," Ruff said. "Obviously, he wasn't on top of his game (that night)."

It would have been difficult to start Martin Biron, considering Hasek's molten play of late. But putting Biron in for the final 20 minutes -- he stopped only six of nine shots -- at least gave The Dominator a chance to breathe.

"When things are going good, there's just some things you don't want to tinker with," Ruff said.

"I never use hindsight because that will kill you. As a coach you go with gut instinct. You live with your decision. There's no use going back and saying, 'You should have done this or you could have done that.' You could throw the other guy in, and then hindsight would have said, 'Well, Dom was on one heckuva roll. Why didn't you keep going with him?'

"Dom was on one heckuva roll, but we made enough mistakes."

The Sabres likely will be without defenseman Richard Smehlik, whose nagging groin injury has put him on the shelf. Winger Vladimir Tsyplakov is questionable with a strained rib cage muscle.

Smehlik's absence, particularly when the team was short-handed, hurt the Sabres on Friday. Smehlik was a major reason they entered the game with the NHL's top penalty killing unit, but the Coyotes had five power-play opportunities in the first two periods and converted two of them.

The Sabres don't play at home again until March 9. The upcoming road trip consists of Ottawa (Tuesday), Philadelphia (Thursday), Colorado (Saturday), Dallas (Sunday) and Boston (March 6).

Who's hot: RW J.P. Dumont has two goals in three games since returning from a strained rib muscle
Record last 5: 4-1
Power play: 41 of 278 (14.7%)
Penalty killing: 31 of 243 (87.2%)
Injuries: C Denis Hamel (knee, out for season), D Richard Smehlik (groin), LW Vladimir Tsyplakov (rib muscle)
Fast fact: Are 4-1 after allowing five goals or more the previous game

Who's hot: G Kevin Weekes shut out Philadelphia on Saturday and beat St. Louis on Tuesday
Record last 5: 1-3-1
Power play: 38 of 328 (11.6%)
Penalty killing: 56 of 304 (81.6%)
Injuries: LW Alexander Kharitonov (flu), D Petr Svoboda (concussion)
Fast fact: 20-year-old captain Vincent Lecavalier is a minus-23 in just 48 games

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