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Sabres Central

Sabres give Shields a "Welcome Home" party
By Rick Anderson
December 23, 2000

Stu Barnes gets a shot off on Sharks goalie Steve Shields, which he blocks with his stick.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Steve Shields knows what it's like to play in Dominik Hasek's shadow. He was second string to Hasek for a number of years before the Sabres let him go. Saturday afternoon, Steve Shields was once again in Hasek's shadows and came up on the short end like before as the Buffalo Sabres ripped Shields for 5 goals as they thumped the San Jose Sharks 5-2. The Sabres gave Shields the Royal Treatment as they rolled out the red carpet for his homecoming. They put 32 shots on their former teammate and got 5 past him.

The Devil Line

This line definitely deserves a name and what better name than the "Devil Line." The line of Stu Barnes, Miroslav Satan and J.P. Dumont are giving opposing goalies plenty of hell lately. Since Sabres coach Lindy Ruff concocted the line 14 games ago, the Devil's Line has produced 16 goals and 34 points. Against the Sharks, the line scored 3 goals and totaled 5 points. Satan, who is starting to get back into the groove again thanks to the addition of Dumont, scored two goals and has upped his season total to 11 goals. Dumont, the Sabres leading go-getter, notched his 15th of the season to go along with his assist on Satan's second goal.

Dumont seems to be getting better by the game. If Blackhawks fans were dismayed that their club gift-wrapped Dominik Hasek and sent him to Buffalo years ago, they must be even more annoyed that they included Dumont in the Gilmour for Grosek trade last March. Dumont appeared to be the "throw-in" at the time, but now many experts are having second thoughts about that hypothesis. Dumont may have been the man that Sabres GM Darcy Regier wanted all along. After coming over to Buffalo last spring, he was sent to Rochester for grooming. He thrived in the AHL and was one of the main reasons why the Rochester Amerks went to the Calder Cup Finals. This year, he's setting the big league on fire with his hot hand. Playing with Satan has been a good fit for Dumont.

"The first game we played together, it was pretty easy seeing each other on the ice," Dumont recalled about being teamed with Satan.

"They have the gift of hanging on and looking for holes," Ruff said. "You put a guy that maybe scores 10 a year, he's going to pull the trigger right away. ... But Miro's got that knack of waiting and looking for something and J.P.'s in that category, too."

Satan, who was in a terrible slump when Ruff teamed him with Dumont, has suddenly reawakened with the help of J.P.

"It's from knowing what a goal-scorer needs," Satan talked about Dumont. "When I have the puck, I know what (Dumont) needs. And he knows where I need it. We don't try to do anything fancy, but when we get the puck, we try to make plays to each other. It seems like it's been working for us so far."

Sharks get first blood

The Sharks got the first taste of blood when they opened the scoring, but it was the Sabres who went on feeding frenzy. Scott Thornton was fed by Owen Nolan and Thornton slipped past Alexei Zhitnik and got in alone on Hasek and ripped it inside the post on Hasek's stick side to put the Sharks up 1-0.

Scott Thornton scores after going on a breakaway against Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek in the first period.
[REUTERS Photo/Nick Jones]

With the problems Hasek had against the Capitals, it looked it was going to be a long afternoon for the Sabres. The Sharks came into HSBC Arena with a 11-4-2 road record, tops in the entire league. What's more, they were 9-2-1 against the Eastern teams. The Sabres backs were already against the wall. Or were they?

Enter the Devil line to turn up the heat on Shields. A little more than 5 minutes after Thornton's goal, Satan notched his first tally of the game. With the Sabres shorthanded, Curtis Brown got control of the puck along the left boards and sent a pass to Satan streaking down the middle. Brown accompanied Satan on the left side as the two of them went 2-on-1 on Shields. Satan hesitated as if he were about to pass back to Brown and then took a shot from the left side of the right faceoff circle that got past Shields. Tie game.

The Sharks took a penalty at 15:58 of the first period, and the Sabres scored just 8 seconds later as Dumont got the Sabres up 2-1. Zhitnik took a shot on goal and Dumont, setting up the screen on Shields, deflected it past the former Sabres netminder.

Just a 1:41 later, the Sabres scored the game winner. Maxim Afinogenov took a shot from the slot area that Shield stopped, but the rebound came right back to Mad Max and he scored his first goal in 15 games. It was Maxim's 6th of the season.

Seven minutes into the final stanza, the Sabres Dynamic Duo went at it again. Dumont and Satan went down on a 2-on-1 with Dumont tearing down the left side. Dumont fed Satan with a perfect pass and Mephistopheles on skates one-timed it to put Buffalo up 4-1.

The Sharks, with the help of the referees, got back into the game when they had a two-man advantage. Gary Suter took a shot from the point that beat Hasek and the Sharks still had a one-man powerplay. This time the Sabres were able to kill that off and keep the Sharks off the board for the remainder of the game.

Doug Gilmour, who has been hampered with a various injuries the entire season, finally was able to contribute to the Sabres cause. With the Sabres on a powerplay, Gilmour tipped Jason Woolley's shot to finish the scoring. It was only Gilmour's second goal of the season.

Sabres Talk

Ruff, with the Sabres 18th victory of the season, has now passed former Sabres bench master John Muckler to become the third best Sabres coach for victories. Ruff now has been behind the bench for 126 wins, behind only Floyd Smith and Scotty Bowman. Ruff is likely to pass Smith this year as he's only 17 behind the only other coach to take the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals. However, it will take him quite a while longer to tie Bowman, who has 84 more Sabres wins than Ruff.

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek tries his figure skating skills in the first period. The Sharks Todd Harvey presence in the crease caused Hasek to lose his balance and Doug Gilmour is there to help out Hasek.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Ruff was in a much better mood after this one than Thursday when his Sabres got spanked by the Capitals.

"I thought we bounced back from the other night with a pretty good effort," Ruff said. "Our passing was better and our "D" was better."

"We watched their games and knew they had good speed, they play a physical game, they've got a couple guys on the back end stepping up looking for the big hits," Ruff said about the feisty Sharks. "We knew that we would have to be able to match it or they may run us over."

Ruff talked about the Lucifer line.

"I think that line has been one of the better lines for quite awhile," Ruff said. "It's been a darn good line for us and we played them head-to-head with Damphousse and Nolan all night."

Then he gave kudos to Barnes. "Stuey for a guy who is basically is mostly wing has done a great job playing in his own end. Pound for pound, with leverage and body position, he's done a fabulous job for us."

J.P. Dumont continues to make his mark in his first season with the big club. He not only has been scoring goals, but setting them up and grinding it out to do so. Dumont has been dishing out bruising checks and even getting into scrums, showing that he's no ordinary pretty boy scorer.

"We had a few chances against Washington and we didn't score," Dumont said. "We don't want to lose two in a row at home. Our power play did well and our P.K. did too."

Asked what was said in after the second period in the locker room, Dumont said, "Just have to work 60 minutes. We know if we don't work 60 minutes, we know what can happen ...(like) the last two games. Tonight we just say we'll work 60 minutes all together. We're a really good team when we work 60 minutes."

Dumont was appreciative of the help the Sabres got from Hasek, who made 22 saves and was steadier than he was two nights earlier against the Capitals.

"We just try to play well in front of him," the Sabres top gun said. "He made some good saves, so that's good for him."

The Sharks were playing their fifth road game in eight days and their legs seemed to turn into fins.

"I was ready for the game," commented Sharks coach Darryl Sutter. "Some of the guys were obviously too tired to play. It's a good lesson for us."

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