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Sabres Central

Ruff sets record in otherwise gloomy week
By Rick Anderson
March 22, 2003

Mike Dunham, on his way to a 3-0 shutout of the Sabres, stops Sabres sniper Miroslav Satan in third period action.
[AP Photo/Chad Rachman]

Finally, a week that was only about hockey. Sabres fans, weary of the constant lack of ownership and bankruptcy news, finally could concentrate on what was happening on the ice instead of off-ice matters. Lindy Ruff finally broke Scotty Bowman's team record of most wins, but outside of that, it was the same old story for the Sabres.

Wednesday night, while Americans tuned into the cable news channels to see America begin its war against Iraq, the Sabres were in New York City losing to the Rangers 3-0. Mike Dunham had his second straight shutout, making 27 saves against the Sabres. The game before, he had blanked the cross-town New York Islanders.

After a scoreless first period, the Rangers got two past Sabres goalie Martin Biron in the second stanza. First, Tom Poti pounced on a Dan LaCouture rebound and shot it past Biron at the 6:12 mark. Then, with 5 minutes left in the period, Buffalo defenseman Doug Houda, coughed up the puck with an errant pass that was intercepted by Eric Lindros. Lindros' shot was stopped, but Bobby Holik put the rebound past Biron.

With just under 9 minutes remaining, Anson Carter, who the Rangers got from Edmonton in a trade the week before, scored his first goal as a Ranger on a nice pass from Mark Messier.

Biron made 36 saves in all, and blocked 28 in the first two periods.

"They were throwing pucks from everywhere and I think that's the desperation from their standpoint," Biron said.

Ruff breaks Bowman's mark

Ruff finally broke Bowman's long-standing Sabres win record for a coach when the Sabres trounced the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2. It was a long time coming. He had tied the franchise mark a week and a half earlier in the last Sabres victory. It appeared as if he would never get the record-breaking mark. But the Sabres continued their dominance against the Flyers and the goal scorers finally found the back of the net with 5 big ones.

Newly acquired Daniel Briere and J.P. Dumont gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead in the first period. But the Rangers tied it until the Sabres came back with goals by Maxim Afinogenov, Jochen Hecht and James Patrick to win going away.

"The special thing about it right now is how hard the guys battled to get that win," lauded Ruff. "We lost a couple guys during the game and, with all the guys we got called up, I thought it was just one heck of a battle."

Ruff reflected about his stint with the Sabres.

"I came here six years ago to win a Stanley Cup," Ruff recalled. "It wasn't about winning the most games. Sure, I'll see Scotty and I can mention 211 wins, but he's going to mention a couple handfuls of Stanley Cups. He's going to one-up me right away."

Biron, who made 30 saves against the East's third place team, had kudos for his coach.

"He mentioned after the game that this is a tribute to all the players, but that's just him being unselfish," praised Biron. "Tonight is a big positive for him and everybody should enjoy it and just forget about the rest of the stuff that's been going on."

Thrashers beat Sabres again

Slava Kozlov scored the winning goal against his former team Saturday night, as the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Sabres 5-3. Kozlov got the winner with just 4:02 remaining.

The Thrashers had not won at home since Feb. 17 when they beat none other than the Sabres.

"For me, it was more important to get the two points than to beat Buffalo," admitted Kozlov. "It's a young team. We're learning how to win. Tonight was a perfect example."

Taylor Pyatt actually evened the score at 3-3 at the beginning of the third period, but Kozlov settled things and Marc Savard scored into an empty Buffalo net with 7 ticks left on the clock.

Alex Kotalik and Tim Connolly gt the first two Sabres goals.

Ruff didn't like the team effort against the Thrashers.

"You can't give up the goals we gave up," Ruff said. "I thought we totally dominated the second period, but we were behind the eight ball. We had some great opportunities to come back."

Sabres Talk

James Patrick paid his coach compliments about his coaching feat of breaking Scotty Bowman's winning mark.

"I'm very proud of him," praised Patrick. "It's been an extremely tough year on the coaches and management. Some of that goes with the territory, but knowing from the inside the job he's done it's quite an accomplishment."

On Wednesday night, Ruff didn't like the offensive effort of this team against the Rangers.

"It wasn't like their goaltender had to make a lot of great saves to win," said Ruff about Dunham. "But he had to make a couple. The (man advantage) opportunities we squandered, if you don't make a difference there it's going to be tough."

"I was watching the Rangers' last game and this is probably their best back-to-back defensive efforts they've put together," Ruff continued. "Our biggest downfall was the power play. We just weren't quick enough. We were a step late."

In an effort to bolster their fighting prowess, the Sabres called up a rookie that showed he can fight with the best of them Friday. Sean McMorrow was brought up from the Rochester Americans to help replace the loss of Rob Ray and Chris Gratton. McMorrow, who has amassed 291 penalty minutes and leads the AHL with 39 major penalties, will definitely add some punch to the Sabres attack against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night in Toronto.

"Obviously I'm going to have to play tough," said McMorrow. "I know my role, and I've just got to go out and do it."

The 6'-4" McMorrow will be looking to keep the likes of Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker off the Sabres in Toronto, which is just west of his hometown of Scarborough, Ontario.

"There's always a possibility that anything can happen," McMorrow said. "I've prepared myself. I wouldn't come into a situation if I wasn't ready for it. I'm ready for any situation that may occur, and I'm looking for a good game."

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