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Sabres Central

Satan finally gets hot
By Rick Anderson
November 27, 2003

Sabres goalie Mika Noronen comes up with a big save on a shot by Capitals right winger Mike Grier in third period action. Noronen helped the Sabres beat the Caps 5-2 on Thanksgiving Eve.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

The Buffalo Sabres may finally be breaking out of their long tradition of losing to the NHL worst teams. Last Friday, they blasted the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0 and Wednesday they throttled the Washington Capitals 5-2. Ten goals in two straight home games could be just what the doctor ordered.

Miroslav Satan had his Thanksgiving feast a day early as he broke out of his 11-game slump by scoring two goals against the Capitals. Before that game, the highest paid Sabre had scored only 5 times, certainly not earning his $5 million per year contract. Satan has been trying everything to regain the form the had a couple years ago when he scored 40 goals. Nothing seemed to be clicking for the last Sabre to end his holdout before the season started.

"I'm glad that it's over," Satan said about getting the monkey off his back. "I didn't change much today. It was usually things I always do. That's the game. Sometimes you have lots of chances that don't go in, and today I had only two shots at the net and I scored two goals."

The Sabres, while they may have scored 10 goals in two home games, certainly have not become proficient scorers. In fact, their 52 goals scored this season has them ranked in the lower half of the NHL. However, the 10-goal spurt is a good sign that they may just be finding their groove. Ales Kotalik, J.P. Dumont and Dmitri Kalinin got the other 3 Sabres goals against the Caps.

Satan is the man the Sabres count the most on in igniting the offense. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff took Satan aside and had an hour meeting with him on Tuesday.

"That's a step in the right direction," indicated Ruff. "Obviously, that was a good game for Miro, but we've got to put a string together. It's not about one game."

Ah yes, it was only one game. Satan has been known to have sudden spurts of lighting the lamp, only to quickly fade from the scene again for weeks on end. The Sabres need much more consistency from their only proven sniper.

Spurts of offense may offer hope

While the Sabres have gone from low scoring games to ones where they rival even the best offenses in the league, the key here is consistency. The Sabres have always had a hard time scoring a lot of goals since Ruff took over as coach. Some attribute it to his defensive system that seems to put a choke hold on the offense. With the addition of former Sabre great Rick Martin as offensive specialist, it may be starting to help some of the younger players as well as the established veterans. The key here is consistency. Just like the goaltending this season which has been either outstanding or dismal, the Sabres offense has to stop their roller coaster ride.

Twin 2-1 losses in Florida

The Sabres lost two games by identical 2-1 scores before the Washington game. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this year, it was not too surprising. Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina scored two goals on Sabres goalie Mika Noronen to beat the Sabres. Maxim Afinogenov got the lone Sabres tally in this game.

"We played well, and I don't feel we deserved the loss," said Noronen, who got the shutout on Friday against the Hurricanes. "Right now I feel pretty empty. We battled hard, but we just couldn't get it done."

The Sabres made the game tight when Afinogenov made a good move to score, but the Lightning shut down the Sabres attack after that.

"I expected maybe they would cave in, but I have a lot of respect for that team," said Lightning Tim Taylor. "They came hard in the third period and gave us all we could handle even though it was their third game in four nights."

Against the Florida Panthers, the Sabres should have been able to score more than one goal, but once again they were held to a lone goal.

Mathieu Biron of the Panthers scored on his brother Marty for what turned out to be the winning goal. It came in the first period and the Panthers took a 2-0 lead, just like the Lightning did. And once again the Sabres came back to make it a 2-1 game. When Mathieu scored on Marty, it marked the first time in 23 years that a brother scored on a brother. The last time that was accomplished was on November 5, 1980, when then New York Rangers center Phil Esposito got one past his brother Tony, who was playing for the Blackhawks.

"The Esposito brothers probably have been fighting for the last 23 years...we'll probably be fighting for the next 23 years, my brother and I,''' said Martin.

"I pretty much just tipped it,'' Mathieu replied. "You just hope to get a good bounce."

The Biron parents were at the game and took it all in stride.

"For Martin and Mathieu, it was a big challenge," said the father, Rejean. "Sometimes Mathieu would say, "Martin, I will score on you one day.' "

"It's been a dream for Mathieu." Celine, the Birons' mother chipped in.

J.P. Dumont ended Roberto Luongo shutout bid when he deflected Alexei Zhitnik's shot from the point on a powerplay early in the third period.

The Sabres host the Panthers again on Friday night. Ruff hopes the Sabres can continue their hot scoring streak at home to finally get over the .500 mark.

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