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Sabres talk about cutting their losses

The words are back. Now it's time to find out if they have meaning or are just hollow remarks.

The Buffalo Sabres have a goal that's simple to say but arduous to achieve. They want to avoid losing two games in a row. They had their first setback of the season last time out, giving them incentive for tonight's meeting with Tampa Bay in HSBC Arena.

"We don't lose two at home," center Derek Roy said. "That's one of our mottos all season long."

It's nothing new. The Sabres recited the same phrase two seasons ago, and they said it again last year. Only once, however, did they live up to it.

The 2006-07 squad used the words as a badge of honor. The Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres were the last NHL team to lose consecutive games, and they didn't falter until mid-December.

That edition had just four losing streaks all season.

The 2007-08 squad didn't even exit the opening weekend with their hopes intact. The playoff-missing Sabres dropped the first two games on the schedule. That edition had 12 losing streaks, including an infamous 10-game winless skid.

The 2008-09 squad says it knows the importance of avoiding extended slumps.

"We learned a lot last year," left wing Thomas Vanek said Wednesday. "My first two years here I think we got spoiled, winning a lot of hockey games. When we lost one, we usually came back and bounced back pretty soon. Last year, we would lose five, six, seven in a row, then all of a sudden guys would show their urgency.

"You can see it [changing] already. Guys are not happy about the loss, and I think everyone came prepared and worked hard today. I'm sure we're going to bounce back."

The sting of Monday's 5-2 loss to Ottawa was evident at practice in the Amherst Pepsi Center. Whenever coach Lindy Ruff saw something that reminded him of Monday's beating, he blew his whistle and screamed for a redo.

He whistled and screamed a lot.

"If I don't see high tempo and high intensity, there's going to be some barking," Ruff said. "After a day off [Tuesday], I just felt that we needed to bear down more. There were some situations I thought we made it look like shinny, and shinny ain't going to cut it."

The Lightning seems an ideal team to test the Sabres' motto first. Buffalo went 4-0 last season against Tampa Bay, which is 2-3-3 and has scored just 14 goals.

Of course, Ottawa was only 2-5-1 and had lost four straight. The Senators were clearly the better team, but Buffalo was tired after a West Coast trip. Excuses were minimal Monday, however, and there are none today.

"We just have to do the things that make us a winning hockey team," goaltender Ryan Miller said. "If you strive for perfection, you're going to play at a higher level. You have to keep pushing yourself, and that's really a thing that Lindy's been on us about. We can always improve. It's not resting on accomplishments or looking back at things that we've done. It's to keep moving forward."

And avoiding two straight steps back.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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