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Sabres feel shaken after weekend

The Buffalo Sabres didn't want to lose two games in a row this season. Now they've lost a whole month.

If you think that might be affecting their confidence, pat yourself on the back for being right.

The Sabres, mired in a three-game losing streak, are just 5-7-1 in January. With only one game left -- Tuesday against Boston in HSBC Arena -- Buffalo is condemned to end the month with a losing record. That has its leadership making the rounds to ensure the losses don't lead to more trouble.

"Confidence is a very fragile thing, and you want to make sure that you don't get too low, you don't beat yourself up," Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said Sunday. "It's a little bit of the message that we're trying to send to everybody around the room.

"There's a lot of guys that have been struggling lately, but it's going to come back. We have to stick together. We can't start pointing fingers and saying, 'Oh, it's this guy's fault or it's this guy's fault.'

When everything was going our way, then everybody's happy, everybody's loving the accolades that we were getting. But now it's a little tougher, and we knew we were going to hit patches like that during the season.

"Now we just have to stay together and realize that at some point it's going to turn around. We have too much talent in the room to not make it work."

The other co-captain, Chris Drury, is bringing the message that this should be a learning experience for the team. The club's only Stanley Cup winner has seen it before.

"I don't think I've ever been on a team that hasn't had a tough month or been in a bit of a funk," Drury said. "It's that time right now, and we're going to be better for it on the other side.

"Even when we won 10 in a row, the answer's the same: It's a long season. You can't get too high when you're hot, and you can't get too low when you're not winning."

The Sabres are sure to be shaky the next time they enter the third period with a lead. They had two chances to end their losing ways over the weekend, and they coughed them both up in the final 20 minutes. Columbus and the New York Islanders each trailed by one goal at the second intermission; the Blue Jackets rallied for a 3-2 win Friday, and the Islanders scored three unanswered to win, 5-3, Saturday.

"It's one thing to lose games. It's how we've lost them that's disappointing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think anytime you go through this, you get a little fragile. I think you worry about where the team and some of the players' heads can get to because you don't want to play scared."

Sure enough, that's what the team is doing.

"Obviously, we're not that confident when we get in the third period right now," Briere said. "We're sitting on our heels right now because we're too worried to make a mistake."

The Sabres have one more practice day today before playing the Bruins. They're likely to spend as much time building the five-on-five play as they are building each other's egos.

"We're a competitive group. We hate losing," Sabres right wing Jason Pominville said. "It's been a tough month. We've just got to regroup and be focused."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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