But it’s hard for Gaustad to avoid the talk. He’s spoken about his status the last two days.
His line, which enjoyed a nice run last postseason, keeps drawing the opposition’s best. On Sunday, the trio outplayed and outscored superstar Evgeni Malkin’s line. They should face the Isles’ top combination of P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson and John Tavares tonight.
“Yeah, definitely he has played some of his best,” Ruff said about Gaustad. “Even if you want to look at the last two games, that line against the top line from Montreal, that line against the Malkin line not only went head-to-head, but outscored them.
“You couldn’t tell a lot of people that was going to happen. But Paul’s done a good job, scored a great goal. They look a lot like they did in the playoffs.”
Who knows, maybe the line sticks together and helps the Sabres earn that unlikely playoff berth?
Ruff said winger Cody McCormick (upper body) is riding an exercise bike again and center Jochen Hecht (concussion) is progressing and “starting to do a little bit of work.”
Could Hecht, out since Jan. 24, be back on the ice in a couple of weeks?
“I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility he can get back on,” Ruff said. “He’s making progress. These are always kind of gray areas where you don’t know.”
Ruff on the tight standings: “That’s the crazy part about where we’re at. One game you can be in 14th. You can win a game you can be in 10th or 11th. It creates hope. There’s teams – you can look at baseball, you can look at football – teams that get in the playoffs the last day, and that might have to be us.”