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Sabres Central

Sabres electrify Anaheim with 4-0 win
By Rick Anderson
January 13, 2001

The Buffalo Sabres finally found their skating legs after four days in California and put in a complete hockey game for the first time in their West Coast trip as they beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-0. Dominik Hasek was in goal for his second straight game and posted his 50th career NHL shutout as he made 21 saves against the Kariya-less Ducks.

Dave Andreychuk battles for the puck along with Ducks' Vitaly Vishnevski in first period action.
[AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]

"Really, I didn't have to make more than two, three tough saves all night," admitted Hasek. "That had to be one of my easiest shutouts. It wasn't one to be very proud of."

Although Hasek may not be proud of the way he got the shutout, he'll take it anyway and run with it all the way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fifty shutouts is nothing to sneeze at.

"It's a great feeling to get 50 shutouts," said Hasek, who also recorded his 5th shutout of the season. "I don't know how many other goalies have 50 shutouts. It's a great number. I'm very proud of that. I didn't have too many tough saves. They maybe had a couple of good chances in the second period, but our defense dominated. I didn't really make more than two or three tough saves all night."

Sabres meet a Ruff challenge

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff had his work cut out for him. The Sabres defense had played horrid the night before against the Los Angeles Kings in the Sabres 3-2 loss and he was determined to get the blueliners playing his system once again. Also, Ruff wanted his team to score first against the Ducks. The first two games against the Sharks and Kings, the home team scored the first two goals in the first period. That put the Sabres in a hole early that they couldn't get out of. Friday night in Anaheim's Arrowhead Pond, the Sabres practiced what Ruff preached.

Eric Rasmussen and Anaheim's Marc Chouinard fall to the ice as the puck gets away from them in the second period of the Sabres 4-0 victory over the Ducks.
[AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]

One of the players Ruff has been challenging has been Maxim Afinogenov. The Sabres coach knew that he had to get his Russian Rocket ignited to charge the Sabres lackluster offense. Afinogenov dazzled the announced crowd of 13,372 when he put a little deke on Duck defenseman Jason Marshall that allowed Mad Max to go in alone on Anaheim goalie Guy Hebert. Afinogenov sent a rocket blast past Herbert and the Sabres had their first lead in the California swing. It was Afinogenov's 9th of the season and came 5:14 into 1st period.

Getting the early jump on the Ducks was imperative in Ruff's scheme of things. It allowed him to play the defensive game that has made the Sabres so successful this season. Hasek had to make only 7 saves in the first period and that was on account of good defensive work by the men in black in front of him.

"They maybe had a couple chances in the second period, but our defense dominated them,"said Hasek. "Not too many tough saves,"

The Dominator has an average at best record career record against the Mighty Ducks. With the win on Friday, he now is 5-4-2 with a 2.25 GAA against Anaheim. With the Ducks scoring machine hurting without Paul Kariya, Steve Rucchin, and Mike Leclerc, it made life that much easier for the Sabres all-time goalie.

"When we took the first shot (against Hasek), our hope was to crash the net and get rebounds," said Ducks coach Guy Charron. "But he didn't allow any rebounds. He's a great goaltender, but you have to find a way. We didn't find a way."

Gratton's hottest gun in the West

The Sabres took their hottest gun-slinger with them to the Wild Wild West and Ruff is happy they did. Chris Gratton continued his torrid goal scoring pace as he notched his fourth goal in four games. Gratton is also responding to Ruff's challenge and the result has been producing points for the Sabres big center.

Curtis Brown tries to slow down Anaheim's Marty McInnis in the first period..
[AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]

Ruff has been telling Gratton all season to use his impressive size and go to the net, screening the goalie and be in a great position for any rebounds or tip-ins. In the three previous road games, Gratton has done just that by causing havoc in front of the opposing goalie and tipping in shots from far out. Friday Rhett Warrener took a shot in the first minute of the second stanza from the Ducks blue line and there was Gratton in Herbert's face. As the blast reached Gratton, he redirected it past Herbert and the Sabres suddenly had a 2-0 lead. Gratton now is on pace for a 25 or 30 goal year and the tally at the 1:05 mark was his 13th of the season.

"I went through a dry spell before this, which is always frustrating, so it's nice to be able to contribute to some wins," said Gratton. "We were able to salvage a .500 road trip."

The Sabres got Gratton last year during the trading deadline. He was brought in to help the Sabres with the faceoffs and to add some physical presence that they were so desperately lacking. Gratton didn't score a goal for Buffalo last year against a goalie (his only one was an empty-netter) and he started this season where he left off last. But finally Gratton has been doing what Ruff has been lecturing at it's paying big dividends for the team.

Power Surge

While the West Coast is suffering from major power shortages, the Sabres seemed to generate enough energy to light all of downtown Los Angeles Friday night. After Gratton's goal, the Sabres illuminated the lamp twice more in the third period.

Dave Andreychuck, who is infamous for his steaky goal-scoring nature, used his eagle wing-span to put the Sabres in front 3-0 six minutes in the final period. Big Dave was able to get in alone on Herbert and put a shot on the Ducks goalie. Herbert made the save, but as Andy was being hauled down, he swiped the puck into the open corner to the amazement of Herbert. It was the 9th goal of the season for the Sabres veteran.

Then the Sabres got their top gun finally on the score sheet. Miroslav Satan has not had a good season at all. He has been struggling and finding the back of the net has been one Ruff's main concerns this year. After scooping up the rubber along the boards, Satan skated to the slot area and forced Herbert to go down in anticipation of his shot. Satan ripped it past the fallen goalie for his 14th of the season at the 8:22 mark.

From there, the Sabres defense and Hasek took over to preserve the shutout.

After playing 9 games in 15 days, the Sabres finally will be able to get a little time to recoup from their grueling schedule. They have 4 day until their next game (Tuesday at home against Tampa Bay). The Sabres went 4-3-2 in the 9 games since their December 29 victory against Ottawa.

Peca gives up his "C"

Michael Peca has decided enough is enough. That's what he told Sabres GM Darcy Regier in a private meeting Friday. The Sabres captain severed all ties with the Sabres organization and told Regier and the Sabres to stick the "C" he had been wearing proudly for the past few years where the sun doesn't shine. Peca said that he wouldn't even sign with the Sabres if they suddenly came up with a $10 million or $25 million offer. He was definitely finished wearing the red, white and black.

"It was a tough decision to make,"Peca said after a long meeting with Regier Friday. "It was a decision I probably should have made earlier, but you always hold out that little optimism. I asked for the trade in October, and I really stuck by that. I knew how far we were going to be apart. Having put it behind me now really sets me at ease."

Peca and his agent Don Meehan and set a 6 PM Friday deadline for a new offer from the Sabres or Peca was shuffling out of Buffalo for good. Regier had a telephone conversation from Peca Thursday night and when Peca voiced that he wanted to give up his captaincy, Regier left Las Vegas where he was meeting with Sabres scouts for an emergency meeting with Peca. Regier should have saved his air fair as nothing was accomplished. The Sabres did not even give Peca a new offer and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"I wanted to make sure (Regier) heard from me first and not anyone else," Peca explained. "I thought if they were going to do something, they would call. And if they weren't, I thought he would call and say, "You know what?' We just can't.' They didn't call. What's clear now is my decision is final."

The Sabres and the Peca camp are still $1 million apart. The Sabres are offering $2.5 million the first year, $2.6 million the second and $2.7 million in year 3 along with a team option for $3 million in the final year. Peca's asking price is $3.5 million. Now even $100 million would not sooth the wounds the failed negotiations have given the Sabres captain.

"We were on polar opposites," Meehan said. "We just were really never close."

"I've never done anything disrespectful to this organization," Peca said. "I think I've conducted myself as a class act and a professional for this organization. I put my life on the line and did anything I could on and off the ice. Hopefully, that gets taken into consideration when they determine how to handle it."

"It's tough," Peca concluded. "It's my occupation, and it's been my livelihood since I was 21/2 years old. It's difficult for the whole family. We have to prepare to move at some point, away from family and friends. We enjoy change in life."

If Peca is dead serious about his latest decision, the Sabres will have to find a suitable trade to fill the hole in leadership that his departure would create. Also, Ruff will have to appoint the new captain. Such possibilities for the new Sabres on-ice leader could be Doug Gilmour (but he may retire after the season), Stu Barnes, Curtis Brown or Chris Gratton (who has been a captain before).

Sabres Talk

Even though Hasek only had to make 21 saves, he still had the Ducks shaking their heads.

"That's why he's one of the best goalies in the league, I guess," said Duck defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky.

It was Tverdovsky who had one of Anaheim's best opportunities to get a puck by the Dominator. Flying into the slot area to pounce on one of the few rebounds Hasek gave up all night, Tverdovsky rifled a high shot that seemed to have the back of the net as it's final nesting spot midway through the second period. Somehow, someway, Hasek was able to get the knob end of his stick to block the shot. Seconds after that amazing save, Teemu Selanne was stopped when the Ducks gun-slinger had a point-blank shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle. Once again, the was heading for the twine, but Hasek suddenly showed more speed than he has all season as he got over to deny Selanne.

While the Sabres were planning to make their trek back to Buffalo, the Ducks were quacking about their lost opportunity to pick up 2 points.

"You have to stick to your game plan,"said Charron. "We wanted to crash the net and get rebounds. They did a good job of boxing us out and keeping us from getting to the rebounds. (Hasek) is a great goaltender, but you've got to find a way. We needed to generate more offense tonight."

Turning to his defense, Charron said, When we have breakdowns, it seems like the puck ends up in our net. When the other team makes a mistake, we can't seem to find the back of the net. Or the goaltender makes a big save."

"We had a chance here to make up some points, but we just made it harder on ourselves," said Tverdovsky. "I don't know what it was with us tonight. For 40 minutes, we played all right (trailing 2-0). But in the third period, we got a little discouraged and we didn't keep pushing. We tried to make fancy plays and score right away and we got burned."

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