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Thibault angry at himself

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff absolved backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault of any blame on the Florida Panthers' four goals Friday night. Thibault wasn't as quick to pass the buck.

"When you haven't played in a while, you don't want to do anything fancy," Thibault said after his second appearance of the season in relief of Ryan Miller ended in a 4-2 loss at HSBC Arena. "You want to play a solid game, an honest game. I have to find ways to win games. I don't play a lot and I have to make a difference every time I play."

In his first outing since Oct. 15, Thibault made 20 saves on 24 shots. Three of the goals came in a five-minute blitz in the second period and Thibault said it was an example of how the Sabres have become rattled at times this season.

"We seem a little bit more fragile this year from what I've seen," Thibault said. "I just got here and I'm trying to get a feel for the guys and the team. I think this team is better. We have to find a way to be more consistent."

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After one game back in the lineup, defenseman Jaroslav Spacek was back out of it when his injured shoulder flared up Friday morning. Newcomer Nolan Pratt stepped in and immediately stepped out as well when he injured his groin early in the third period.

"I thought he was doing pretty good," Ruff said. "That's the greatest fear of trying to put somebody in the lineup. We were going to put him in either here or in Rochester. It could have happened in either place.

"You can practice and skate all you want on your own but until you get in intense game situations, you don't know what to expect."

Ruff said the Sabres would assess Pratt's injury today.

Spacek missed a couple of shifts in the third period Thursday in Boston but returned in the late going and even was on the ice for Boston's winning goal in overtime. Afterward, he said the shoulder was fine. It wasn't Friday.

"It was too tender," Ruff said. "Hopefully it's a short-term [injury] but we thought it was going to be short the last time too."

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The Sabres don't play another game outside the Northeast Division until their Nov. 26 visit to Washington. The next nine games are all against Northeast foes, beginning Monday in Montreal.

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Ruff was behind the bench for his 750th career game Friday night, becoming just the ninth coach in NHL history to do it with one team.

Former Buffalo coach and General Manager Scotty Bowman is the all-time leader at 2,141 games and Al Arbour is second at 1,606. The 75-year-old Arbour, who led the New York Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83, will be behind the bench tonight as the Islanders meet Pittsburgh.

Arbour coached 1,499 games for the Isles from 1973-94 and current coach Ted Nolan came up with the idea of getting him to 1,500 over the summer.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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