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Sabres Central

Barnes hurt in Sabres tie with Lightning
By Rick Anderson
March 18, 2002

The old vs. the new. Former Sabre Dave Andreychuk of Tampa Bay battles for position with Sabres newcomer Taylor Pyatt during first period action. Both players scored goals as the game ended up in a 2-2 tie.
[AP Photo/Scott Audette]

The points were there for the grabbing. The Sabres just didn't want to have anything to do with them. That's the sad situation with the Buffalo Sabres. Two games in Florida this weekend netted the Sabres just one point in their desperate attempt to crawl out of the hole they've dug themselves this season and get back into the playoff race. The best the Sabres could do was to get a point out of Tampa Bay as they skated to a 2-all draw with the Lightning. The game was also a very costly one as the Sabres may have lost their captain for around two weeks.

The Sabres, after their big win in Philadelphia, looked to be in good shape going to Florida over the weekend. Instead, they blew a huge opportunity to make up ground in the heated playoff race. Dave Andreychuk and Sheldon Keefe got the Lightning goals while Taylor Pyatt and James Patrick answered for the Sabres. The Sabres have been having problems all season with the weaker teams and this weekend's games stayed true to course.

"We need to do more than play .500 if we want to get back into the playoffs," said Buffalo defenseman James Patrick. "Every point counts in the end, and we could have had two tonight."

Martin Biron, who made 22 saves in the contest, came up big in overtime to prevent the Sabres from suffering yet another Florida loss.

"Biron made some great saves," said Pavel Kubina, who was stonewalled by Biron in the overtime. "We had three or four great chances, but he stopped them."

"It's much different when you walk out of here with a tie than a loss, even though you got the point," mentioned Biron. "You never know what can happen. You might get that extra point."

The Lightning stuck it to the Sabres first when Andreychuk, who played for Buffalo last year, made a great play on the powerplay to get it past Biron. He snuck around the net and got a pass out in front, where he tapped it between Biron'' pads. It was the 244th career power-play goal for Andreychuk, which puts him only 5 back of the leader Phil Esposito.

The Sabres actually took a brief lead in this game when Pyatt tied it up at 2:47 of the second stanza and Patrick gave Buffalo the lead at 8:29 mark. However, Keefe tied it up with 2:10 in the period and the two goalies kept it scoreless from that point on.

Barnes injured on "gutless" hit

It was an ugly game as the Lightning, taking a page out of the past few Buffalo opponents, came out hitting high and hitting low in an attempt to throw the Sabres off their game. One of the most blatant cheap shots came just 90 seconds into the game. Barnes went behind the Sabres net to chase the puck and Barnes was trying to avoid a heavy check by Andreychuk. Right when Andreychuk hit him, Jassen Cullimore came in on the blind side and smashed Barnes head into the plexiglass with his shoulder. Barnes head hit the boards going down and then his head smashed into the ice as he went down unconscious. Barnes was out on the ice, bleeding profusely and had to be helped off the ice and into the dressing room.

The Sabres captain received several stitches and it was determined that he had a concussion. By league rules, Barnes will have to miss at least a week because of their strict rules concerning concussions. It was revealed after further examination Monday that Barnes will be out at least two weeks, the most crucial time of the season. This could be a very costly setback for the Sabres in their frantic attempt to make the playoffs.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff ripped the thuggery by Cullimore.

"Stu's not very good after that gutless act," fumed Ruff. "The kid was defenseless. He (Cullimore) just drilled his head into the plexiglass. He's got a concussion. He may not make the trip back. I thought it was a gutless, gutless, gutless play on that player's part."

The Sabres may request the league look into a possible lengthy suspension to Cullimore. For some ungodly reason, there was no penalty called on the play.

The Lightning see the play in a completely different light.

"It's a clean hit," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Looked like he was out on his feet. Most of the damage happened when he hit the ice. I hope he's OK. No one wants to see somebody hurt like. There's nothing gutless about Jassen Cullimore."

Cullimore said that he didn't intentionally intend to hurt Barnes.

"Hurting someone is not something you go out there looking to do," related Cullimore. "I was just finishing my check. I didn't mean for him to go down. I'm not proud he got hurt. I just hit him from the side. I don't feel it was a dirty hit, and the refs were right there. They didn't believe it was a penalty."

To make matter worse, they kept on playing the gruesome hit on the Jumbotron to the delight of the bloodthirsty fans. It was kind of reminiscent of Osma bin Laden replaying that video of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center on September 11th.

Even Cullimore wished they hadn't kept playing the bloody incident over and over again.

"I talked to one of my teammates about that, and said how brutal it was the way they kept showing it," admitted Cullimore. "It's not anything pretty to watch."

Ruff also didn't like seeing the replay of his captain getting hurt being shown on the on the jumbotron repeatedly.

"I watched it," said a frustrated and disturbed Ruff. "There was nothing he could do, and I thought the guy gave him an extra shot. I thought the building showed a lot of class, putting it up (showing the replay) when you've got a guy knocked out. That's a lot of class by Tampa's organization to keep putting it up there."

With Barnes out for at least a week and the Sabres struggling to put together a late season winning streak to make the playoffs, Ruff's team is really up against the wall.

"It's a big loss," admitted Ruff. "He's on our first power-play unit, he's one of the top four penalty-killers, and our penalty-killing is in the top three (in the league). It's a hole."

The Sabres were furious after the game about Cullimore's hit, and were further incensed that the incident was replayed in the arena several times during the remainder of the game. One thing the Sabres didnít do, however, and that was to ďpay backĒ Cullimore. If Ruff thought it was such a gutless act, then why didnít he or the players do something about it. This is the second time in recent memory that the Sabres stood by idly while their captain was being pummeled. Back a couple years ago, Steve Konowalchuk used Michael Pecaís face as a punching bag after he had separated his shoulder. Not one Sabre came to his defense then and not one Sabre came to Stu Barnes defense as he lay helplessly on the ice bleeding profusely. That is the kind of spirit this team has. They donít have the heart nor the drive to be a winner and they wonít protect their own.

Road from here

The Montreal Canadiens, who have the easiest schedule of any of the remaining teams vying for the last playoff spot, look like a shoo-in for that final slot. The Sabres, who have their "easy" part of the schedule now that they concluded their vacation Florida trip, wasted a huge opportunity. With the scored tied at 2-2, the Sabres could only muster 2 shots in the third period. Worse, they didn't register one shot on goal in overtime. Apparently they are not at all interested in making the playoffs this year.

Tuesday at 3 PM is the trading deadline in the NHL. The Sabres haven't made any trades all year and nothing has been heard from Sabres GM Darcy Regier since he traded Michael Peca and Dominik Hasek right before last summer's draft. Apparently, the Sabres are not going to make any trades to improve the club this year. If anything, they will try to unload some of the bigger salaries on their payroll. Frequently mentioned in a dumping of salaries are Chris Gratton, Miroslav Satan and Curtis Brown.

The Sabres continue their condensed schedule when they host Ottawa Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if there are any new faces (or missing ones) on the team that takes the ice Tuesday in HSBC Arena.


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