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A Ruff practice between the pipes

Lindy Ruff's goaltending has a long way to go to match his coaching talent -- and his prankster skills.

The Buffalo Sabres held an optional practice Tuesday in HSBC Arena, and only seven players participated. So the team had a cross-ice scrimmage inside one blue line, with Martin Biron in one net and an unidentified masked man in the other. It was Ruff, playing goal for Czech mates Ales Kotalik, Jaroslav Spacek and Jiri Novotny.

The 46-year-old coach had trouble stopping Adam Mair, Andrew Peters and Nathan Paetsch.

"They found his weakest area, and we really took advantage of it," Biron said.

Added Kotalik: "He made some saves, but I think he would rather stay behind the bench."

Ruff, though, claimed it wasn't him. Despite beads of perspiration atop his forehead, the coach said he was watching video and it was his brother who strapped on the pads.

"You've seen what kind of shape I'm in lately? I'll stay away from that. I'll get hurt doing that now," Ruff said. "That was a setup. They're blaming the bad goaltending on me."


The Sabres have lost only seven games in regulation. Three have come against the Ottawa Senators. Think the Sabres feel they have something to prove tonight in Scotiabank Place?

"We want to go in there and prove that we're the better team, and it's not just a fluke that we beat them in the playoffs," Sabres left wing Jochen Hecht said.

The Sabres are getting a shot at a team that's hurt up the middle. Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher are out with knee injuries, while fellow center Antoine Vermette is doubtful with an injured hip. Ottawa is still 4-0-1 in its past five games.


Voting for the All-Star Game is over. The waiting has just begun.

The polling at closed Tuesday night, but the league will not announce who was elected to start in the exhibition until the next nationally televised game. The Colorado Avalanche hosts the Detroit Red Wings at 9 p.m. Tuesday on Versus, and the top vote-getters will be announced during the broadcast. Reserves will be named Jan. 13.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and defenseman Brian Campbell are heavy favorites to be named starters for the Eastern Conference, while the final forward spot will likely come down to either Daniel Briere or Maxim Afinogenov. Fewer than 5,000 votes separated third-place Briere from fourth-place Afinogenov in the last update, and it's unlikely both would be able to leapfrog second-place Alexander Ovechkin of Washington.


The starting time for the Sabres' game at Chicago next Wednesday has been changed from 8:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. . . . MSG will televise a pregame show rather than a postgame show for the Sabres' next two games. It will come on the air at 7 tonight and 7:30 p.m. Friday.


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