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Sabres try to quiet controversy before taking on Canadiens

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) reaches out to stop the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 16, 2013.

Gary Wiepert/AP

First, came the complaint, then came the put-down.

Given the public airing of soiled bed-clothing simply isn't done in the NHL, there followed a familiar routine: climb-down, apology, reconciliation.

So move along, there's nothing to see here, Buffalo Sabres teammates Patrick Kaleta and Ryan Miller are good.

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"He's like my brother, he's one of my best friends on the team. Some things were misunderstood there, but you know, we're family," Kaleta said after a pregame skate ahead of Buffalo's clash with the streaking Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Ask the Sabres and they'll tell you everything is peachy keen in their dressing room.

The facts suggest otherwise: the Sabres are seven points out of a playoff spot, and the reality is their star goalie called out his former road roommate in front of the cameras.

Earlier this week Kaleta, upset at being a healthy scratch after a five-game suspension for hitting New York Rangers centre Brad Richards from behind, was told in no uncertain terms where he could go with his public gripes.

"That's just drama and he just needs to grow up if he's gonna say that to you guys . . . we handled it. He doesn't have to go to (the media) and say that stuff. There. I'm addressing it now and I'll go and talk to him about it. There's no reason to say that," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who has been decidedly out of sorts this season, what with all the losing.

On Monday, Miller apologized, saying "I felt like what I was told he said and what he actually said were two different things."

"I probably shouldn't have handled it like that, but again, I was frustrated and I think everyone in Buffalo knows I'm prone to say stupid things that come up over the course of the season, so I just wanted to make sure that I handled it with Patty," he told the team website.

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The apology, for what it's worth, is accepted by Kaleta, it's not clear any acts of contrition are forthcoming for the stinker of a season the Sabres have delivered to their fans.

A bubble team a year ago – the Sabres fell three points short of a playoff spot despite a furious late-season push – there were high hopes for Buffalo, which has overhauled its roster since deep-pocketed new owner Terry Pegula came on board.

Instead, the team is on its second coach of the year, holds a 10-15-4 record – and 1-3-3 in its last seven - and possesses the worst power play in the NHL.

Which is why interim coach Ron Rolston is ringing the changes.

Top scorer Thomas Vanek is being demoted to the second line with Ville Leino and Tyler Ennis, super-pest Steve Ott is being promoted to the top unit alongside Cody Hodgson and team captain Jason Pominville.

"We've put ourselves in a tough spot . . . we've got to get on a run and we've got to do it soon," said Pominville, a native of Repentigny, Que.

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The Sabres' odds of making the playoffs are something of the order of 0.7 per cent (per, but the Habs, winners of five straight, will want to be mindful of the banana-peel potential of Tuesday night's game (7:30 p.m., RDS, TSN).

"These are the games we're expected to win, so we have to make sure we're sharp," winger Colby Armstrong said after practice Monday.

The Canadiens are looking for a sixth straight win, and will benefit from the return of winger Michael Ryder, who missed last Saturday's 2-1 win over New Jersey with an unspecified lower-body injury.

Carey Price will make the start in net – Jhonas Enroth will get the call ahead of Miller – and Armstrong is expected to slot in alongside third-line duo Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk, rookie Gabriel Dumont, who had occupied that spot, will likely centre the fourth line with Travis Moen and Ryan White.

The Canadiens won the first meeting of the season between the teams in convincing fashion – 6-1 at the Bell Centre – but lost the second in a shootout after blowing a 4-1 lead.

Montreal remains atop the Northeastern division, a win would vault them back into the conference lead ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, should the Pens lose to Washington.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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