Slough tough on Ruff

ROB LONGLEY

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

After winning five of seven games, the Buffalo Sabres have stuttered lately in advance of their game tonight against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. A 1-2-2 run in their past five contests has been a cause for concern for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

"It's disappointing, it's frustrating and hard to hide from," Ruff said after his team's latest setback, a 4-2 home loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

INJURY WARD

Besides the injury that has sidelined forward Jeremy Williams, the Leafs also will be without forward Andre Deveaux, who was limping around again yesterday after being nailed in the foot by a shot in practice on Monday.

Prospects are better for rookie defenceman Luke Schenn, however. The Saskatoon native, who suffered a mild knee injury on Dec. 6, is expected to return to the lineup next Tuesday.

"He needs a couple more good, hard skates before we actually take him off (injured reserve) and make that decision," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

Wilson also expects to have defenceman Jonas Frogren back in the lineup. The Swede left the Leafs game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday because of a rib injury but was a full participant in yesterday's practice.

CUTTING REMARK

Former Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke never has been shy with an opinion and let loose with another shot, this time at Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph.

"(The Leafs) have got to cut ties with (Joseph)," Clark said on the TSN telecast of the Leafs-Thrashers game on Tuesday. "Put in somebody who's got a chance of getting better."

DOG'S DAY

Wilson was impressed and pleased with Joseph's milestone win Tuesday, the first of the season for the popular 41-year-old. Wilson plans to go back to Joseph tonight against the Sabres, hoping to build confidence in the veteran while at the same time allowing starter Vesa Toskala to rest his injured groin.

"To win 450 games (in a career), that's quite an achievement," Wilson said yesterday. "And just that he got a win (is big), to not go 0-for-'08 with (the Leafs).

"He'll be even better next time. Maybe he'll relax a little bit. He found he could focus generally for the 60 minutes."

LOOSE LEAFS

The Leafs' record on New Year's Day is 21-12-6, including an impressive 16-4-2 at home. The previous time they played the Sabres on Jan. 1 was in 2000, when they were hammered 8-1 in Buffalo.


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