Ruff rides Sabres

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The year-long NHL lockout did nothing to dampen Lindy Ruff's vocal cords.

With his team's fortunes plummeting quicker than the raging waters of nearby Niagara Falls, the veteran Buffalo Sabres coach has not been afraid to deliver stinging public criticisms at his own players this past week.

Target No. 1 was defenceman Dmitri Kalinin, who was accused by his coach of making "sloppy and careless turnovers."

Forwards Mike Grier and Chris Drury also were the objects of Ruff's wrath for their inability to score, especially in five-on-five situations.

But Ruff's biggest pet peeve these days is goaltender Martin Biron, who has suffered four consecutive losses since starter Ryan Miller suffered a broken thumb.

"I need him to be more aggressive," Ruff said of the chatty Biron.

"Go to the top of the paint and say: 'Here I am. Beat me with me falling forward.' "

The Sabres' fall from grace started nine days ago when Miller was injured by a shot to the blocking hand during the team's morning skate at the HSBC Arena. Miller is scheduled to resume practising next month.

With his team still a healthy three games above .500 at the time, Ruff inserted Biron into the lineup for a divisional showdown against the Ottawa Senators that night.

The Sabres were said to be close to dealing Biron at the time of Miller's injury, so here was an opportunity for Biron to showcase his talents to all the scouts on hand.

No such luck. The Sabres were whipped 10-4 by the Sens, igniting a four-game losing streak in which Buffalo has surrendered 21 goals.

Five of those came in a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night, a game in which the young Sabres outshot the visitors 44-22.

"I need Marty to let it all hang out," Ruff said after the loss to the Hurricanes. "He wasn't quite there for us."

Even though backup Mika Noronen has been more of an offensive force against Toronto, Biron is expected to get the start tonight when the Sabres attempt to snap their losing skid against the visiting Maple Leafs.

"I don't think I'll be happy until I make that one save that makes a difference," Biron said, adding that the tilt against the neighbouring Leafs tonight in front of a packed house would be a good start.

"If anyone has trouble getting up for this game, they have a problem," Biron said.


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