Want to start an argument with Lindy Ruff? Just walk up to him today and tell him that Daniel Paille had an average game for the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
Be ready for a fierce debate that the Sabres coach will undoubtedly win.
"I thought he was close to the best player on the ice," Ruff said after the Sabres' 6-3 victory over Boston. "If he wasn't the best player in work ethic and how he skated, I'd argue with somebody over it."
Paille scored his first two goals of the season -- and just the second and third of his career -- to help the Sabres end a three-game winless streak in HSBC Arena. The rookie was on the ice for 19 1/2 minutes, including 2:32 of penalty-kill time, and had three shots, two blocked shots and one hit.
The outing came just days after Ruff sat the 22-year-old down for a chat. Paille was summoned from Rochester on Saturday morning for that night's game against Tampa Bay, and he admittedly had a subpar showing. Ruff told Paille he needed more if the Welland, Ont., native wanted to stay in the NHL.
"I'm just going to do my best with any situation that I have and keep working at it," said Paille, who scored his first NHL goal last January. "I just feel that every game that I have I feel a lot more confident with the puck. I'm not as afraid of making mistakes. I just want to work hard and not let up."
The party was back on at the blue line.
The Sabres' defensemen, whose presence on the score sheet had waned during the previous 24 games, were all over the goal announcements Wednesday. Brian Campbell scored the winning goal, and defensemen earned assists on the first three.
It was the first four-point night by the blue-liners since a 7-2 victory over Nashville on Dec. 21.
The defensemen had eight shots against the Bruins, doubling the four they had Monday in the opener of the back-to-back series. Campbell, who added an assist, scored from the blue line on a slap shot that was deflected, and Jaroslav Spacek credited shots getting through to the net for the breakthrough.
"Little things," said Spacek, who had two assists. "It wasn't really much. Look at how many chances we had today, and we score on one blind shot from the blue line."
Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder missed his seventh straight game, and he isn't expected back soon. He was listed as "week-to-week" after spraining his right ankle Jan. 3, but two weeks later he still isn't skating.
"The fact that he's not skating is a pretty good indication that he's not close to coming back," Ruff said. "Ankle injuries, they're tough. Sometimes it takes a lot longer. Sometimes it's worse than breaking them, when you sprain an ankle."
Left wing Jochen Hecht missed the first of at least three games with a lower-body injury, and forward Paul Gaustad missed his second straight with an upper-body injury.
The injuries forced Ruff to juggle his lines. He said Tuesday that Thomas Vanek would play left wing for center Daniel Briere and right wing Jason Pominville, and the trio started the game.
Derek Roy and Maxim Afinogenov stayed together, but Roy moved from center to left wing, and Jiri Novotny played in the middle. Drew Stafford, recalled from Rochester to fill in for Hecht, began the game on the fourth line with center Adam Mair and left wing Andrew Peters. Paille stayed with center Chris Drury and right wing Ales Kotalik.
The NHL has teamed with Reebok to develop new uniforms for every team for next season. Sabres fans who rushed out to buy the team's new duds can rest easy. The Sabres' sweaters will retain the same design.
The league is changing the jerseys and socks to make them more streamlined and water resistant. The material is lighter and more flexible.
The uniform design was unveiled to select media members Wednesday in New York and will get the full blowout Monday during All-Star festivities in Dallas. The style will debut during Wednesday's All-Star Game.
Many teams will be changing designs because horizontal stripes at the bottom of the jersey will either disappear or diminish. The Sabres were made aware of the upcoming changes, so their jersey does not have stripes at the bottom. The new sweaters will have different cuts and seams under the arms and along the sides.