Sabres loose entering Game 1

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Lindy Ruff almost choked from laughter.

Here he was, fielding questions about the Ottawa Senators yesterday, when a Buffalo-based reporter lobbed the following beauty his way.

"Lindy, your thoughts on Dom's groin."

It was, of course, a reference to the injury being nursed by former Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek, who led Ruff's Buffalo squad to the 1999 Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.

After Ruff and the media members finished their 15-second laugh session, the Sabres coach managed to regain his composure.

"Care to rephrase that?" Ruff asked the reporter.

This is one loose coach.

And one loose team.

Just 14 hours after eliminating the Philadelphia Flyers by winning Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final 7-1, the Sabres were back on the ice yesterday, laughing and joking throughout their 40-minute workout.

"We told them we'd give them the morning to celebrate, then have them back practising at noon," Ruff said.

Pressure? What pressure?

As Ruff points out, the Sabres are "the underdogs" in their Eastern Conference semi-final versus the Sens.

"Hopefully people will continue to find reasons for us to fail," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. "We seem to thrive on that."

Now they go into Ottawa for Game 1 carefree and confident.

Sure, there will be the usual onslaught of questions in the coming days.

About Hasek.

About Senators general manager John Muckler, the one-time GM of the Sabres.

And about the three early-season butt-kickings handed to them by the Sens, who outscored the Sabres 21-5 in the process.

Ruff won't be showing any film of that trio of stinkers to his team prior to Game 1.

"We're not going back that far," he said. "We have a different team now."

As for Hasek, Ruff isn't counting out the goaltender's return at some point in the series.

"I don't know the state of his injury, but I'm sure he's itching to get back against us," Ruff said.

And that's no joke.


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