For those of you who like to come early to HSBC Arena and watch the pregame warm-up, don't be alarmed when only the Montreal Canadiens are on the ice tonight for the first three minutes of activity.
The Sabres pulled a little change-up on their road trip by dumping morning skates and going out late for game warm-ups. What followed is a three-game winning streak. Lindy Ruff is a superstitious type, so he's not tampering with that kind of success.
"In my career, I've never gone out at 12 minutes or so. We've always had the full 16," said captain Craig Rivet. "It's something new to me. It makes guys wake up a little more. When things are going wrong, [Ruff] isn't afraid to change things."
"It kept some guys on their toes," added Paul Gaustad. "I was more interested to see what the other team thought without another team out there, if we were late or something."
Ruff made the changes after the team's flameout last Tuesday in Atlanta. Beginning Thursday in Tampa Bay and continuing Saturday in Florida and Sunday in Carolina, there was no morning skate and a shorter warm-up.
"I was trying to create a sense of urgency," Ruff said. "If you take away warm-up time, a player knows he's got to be ready even before he goes out. Part of not skating is that you've got the rest of the day to think, 'I didn't skate this morning so I ought to be ready to play.'
"It's the time of year where I really don't know what benefit the morning skate has when you go out for 15 minutes. Sometimes it just makes it a real long day."
Winger Jochen Hecht said it was odd to go from an Olympic warm-up of 20 minutes last month in Vancouver back to the 16 of the NHL and now down to 13 in the new Ruff way. He was laughing when asked about the method to Ruff's madness.
"He's trying to get everybody ready for the game," Hecht said. "Certainly we had a good start since then and in hockey superstition is big, so we're sticking with it. Looks like it till Lindy says otherwise."
The Canadiens are expected to get a couple of key additions tonight as Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron will both return to the lineup for the first time since suffering knee injuries in early February. Winger Travis Moen will miss tonight's game after getting cut in the face by an errant skate during Monday's game against Ottawa.
Cammalleri is the team's leading goal-scorer with 26 and should help a power play that's just 5 for 37 since the Olympic break and was 0 for 5 in Monday's 2-0 loss to the Senators.
The Canadiens are 7-2-1 since the break and 21-10-4 since defenseman Andrei Markov returned from a 2 1/2 -month absence caused by a lacerated ankle tendon suffered in the season opener in Toronto.
Sabres winger Raffi Torres did not practice Tuesday and remains day-to-day with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Torres has not scored in seven games with the Sabres after collecting 19 goals for Columbus.
Workers are continuing to put the arena back to hockey mode in the wake of the NCAA basketball tournament. All advertising inside the seating bowl had to be covered, as did the Sabres' logos on the HD board, and all banners had to be removed from the rafters.
Tonight's game is a 7:30 start rather than the usual 7 p.m. weeknight faceoff because of a national telecast across Canada on TSN. The game will be aired locally on MSG as normal.