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Sabres owner Pegula scales back title expectations for rebuilding team

Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula, gestures toward the First Niagara Center and explains development plans during groundbreaking ceremonies before an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, April 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

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Buffalo Sabres' owner Terry Pegula, gestures toward the First Niagara Center and explains development plans during groundbreaking ceremonies before an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, April 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula's objective to build a Stanley Cup contender remains the same. It's his three-year timeline that's proving unrealistic.

With Buffalo in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second straight year, Pegula said Saturday it's unclear how long it might take to rebuild the Sabres.

"You know, I don't know how long," Pegula said, before referring to Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is from Buffalo. "Jerry Jacobs down the road took 39 years to win a Stanley Cup. So I don't know how long. I'm not going to guarantee anybody anything, you know. You do your best every year."

The Sabres haven't been anywhere near good this season. They fired longtime coach Lindy Ruff after a 6-10-1 start in February, and are retooling their roster after trading away three veterans—including captain Jason Pominville—over the past month.

And Pegula's comments—his first since the season began in mid-January—are a substantial turnaround for the owner. He had previously talked openly about the prospect of the Sabres winning a title within three seasons after he purchased them in February 2011.

"One team wins the Stanley Cup every year. We will build toward that goal," Pegula said. "We're daily working that goal."

Pegula spoke only briefly to reporters after taking part in a ground-breaking ceremony for a $172 million downtown hockey/entertainment complex he is building across the street from the Sabres home.

Pegula wasn't in a mood to say much about his slumping Sabres, who hosted the Philadelphia Flyers later in the afternoon. He declined answering a question about firing Ruff, and a team spokesman reminded reporters on several occasions to ask questions only regarding the ground-breaking ceremony.

Pegula did draw parallels to his team and the plot of land on which the HARBORCenter complex will be built. He noted several construction proposals for the property had previously fallen through.

"I've always said nothing is as good as it looks or bad as it seems. And there's always good in something bad," Pegula said. "I'm aware that along the way, this waterfront property has had its up and downs. Our plan for the Sabres is similar. I'm going to proceed into the future with that plan."

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