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Slumping Sabres aim to regain control Players, coach cite lack of discipline

The walk toward winning again has just one more step as far as the Buffalo Sabres are concerned.

They say if they can find discipline, they can find a victory.

Many things have gone wrong for the Sabres during a six-game winless streak. But things are starting to go right. The power play has resurfaced. Shots are going in. The goaltender feels comfortable again.

Discipline, however, must be hiding in the same place as victories. Its disappearance is evident on the score sheet, which has shown 10 power plays against in three of the six losses. It is evident on the lips of the players, who've been flapping at the officials after being careless with their sticks.

It's also been evident from the coach, who's been echoing and leading his players' complaints. He is the one who declared Tuesday it's time to stop.

"The message this morning was we took a lot of pride in being a very disciplined club, and I thought we were undisciplined," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought it started with myself behind the bench. We have to get the composure back, stay away from the officials and not worry about the call. We're going to get some, we're not gonna get some. We've taken a lot of pride in that, and I think we started using that as an excuse. We wiped that off the board again."

Their first chance to prove it comes tonight when they host the Boston Bruins in HSBC Arena (7 p.m., MSG, Radio 550 AM).

They met two games ago, a 5-4 Sabres loss in which Buffalo was whistled six times. The Sabres upped that to 10 in Monday's 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, matching the number of short-handed situations they had in each of the first two games of the slide.

"I think everybody is a little frustrated over this losing streak," center Derek Roy said. "Little things add up. We got a little frustrated offensively. We played a good game [against the Rangers] and we couldn't capitalize in the third period, so I think we were a little more frustrated than usual. The start of the year it didn't seem like we were frustrated at all."

The whining would have been worse if it weren't for the penalty killers. They've squashed 41 of the 46 chances during the skid, an 89.1 percent success rate that has kept them No. 3 in the league.

"We started the season as one of the least-penalized teams in the league, if not the least," goalie Ryan Miller said. "It's such a big part of the game.

"It's just a situation where it's good to address these things. It's just some little things we're doing wrong that are costing us, and it's everybody, myself included."

Miller said Tuesday he felt "a little uncomfortable" in net about two weeks ago but added he feels he's been in every game since despite a 3.98 goals-against average.

"Stretches like this in a season, things are going to happen. It's just coinciding with a time when our team [is struggling]," Miller said. "Everything is really happening as a group. When we talked about winning as a team, we're definitely losing as a team. I thought we've been working harder, so it can only get better."

Ruff concurred, refusing to go to the oft-used adage of "we needed one more save."

"We've been a good team of protecting each other and helping each other," he said. "When we gave up too many goals we found a way to score, and when we weren't scoring those guys were the backbone. . . . It's pretty hard to go the other way now and say, 'Aw, come on, they've got to give us that,' because if you want to look at the big picture it's been a team effort."

Now, they say, it's up to team discipline. The power play went 2 for 4 against the Rangers to end a 0-for-22 slump. They aren't getting outworked. The last step is to stop yelling and start cheering.

"We're close now," Ruff said. "If we were a yard away, we're inches away now."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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