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Bad times continue for Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres v New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 28: Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres keeps his eye on the action as he is hit into the net during the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 28, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Sabres 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bruce Bennett

The Buffalo Sabres came into this season with big expectations, but their goals are whittling down to the same ones they had midway through 2010-11: simply claw their way into the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils are likely to be one of those “bubble” teams, so dropping a 3-1 loss to them cannot feel good.

The turning point?

Then again, the Sabres haven’t felt very good since they took a four-game winning streak into Boston on Nov. 12. Call it an easy narrative if you’d like, but times have been pretty lean since Milan Lucic clobbered Ryan Miller.

Since then, the Sabres have gone 7-11-3 to drop their overall record to 17-16-3. Buffalo went from second place in the Northeast Division and fourth in the East before that collision to fourth in their division and 11th in the conference today.

Who’s to blame?

The Versus gang pointed a finger at Miller and he’s certainly been disappointing, but it’s a team-wide concern. Despite some expensive should-be enhancements, their offense is inconsistent, their defense is as lax as its ever been and, yes, their goalie isn’t earning his big contract.

It’s tough to say what they really need to do - unless you’re in the subset who believes the team should make the drastic move of trading Miller - so improvement will have to come from within.

(Unless the Sabres decide to fire Lindy Ruff, the league’s longest tenured coach in the NHL, of course.)