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Sabres Central

One for the Road
By Rick Anderson
October29, 2000

It had to happen sometime. The Buffalo Sabres could not go the entire season without winning at least one game on the road. The Sabres used the Chicago Black Hawks as their road sacrificial lambs as they beat the Hawks 3-1 to finally end their road blues.

Rob Tallas sprawls as the Sabres' Curtis Brown slides a shot under the Black Hawks goal and just wide of the net.
[AP Photo/Frank Polich]

Return of the Living Dead

As if the Black Hawks needed anything more to plague them in what's turning out to be a disastrous season! The weekend before Halloween in Chicago can be pretty frightening as it is, but to have this Gruesome Threesome return to the shores of Lake Michigan was too much to bear. Talk about living nightmares, they Hawks had to stop three former Black Hawks who have resurrected their careers with the Sabres. Dominik Hasek, Doug Gilmour and J.P. Dumont, or the 3 Ds if you may. Hasek was back to his old frightful form, and Gilmour was omnipotent. Then there was throwaway in last year's Grosek /Gilmour trade, Dumont. He had the biggest bite of them all as he scored the game's first goal and set the tone for the game.

"It feels good, especially against Chicago" said Dumont about putting the smarts to the team that threw him away last March. "I got my chance with Buffalo and I want to make the most of it."

Road Kill

Erik Rasmussen said it best on Friday night in describing the season so far which has been like day and night.

"We can play 40-0 at home and be 0-40 on the road, it doesn't help us," Rasmussen said. "We've got to go out and start establishing ourselves as a road team."

That the Sabres did Saturday night in Chicago. The Hawks were ripe for the plucking and the Sabres sliced them and gobbled them up like a well cooked Thanksgiving turkey.

The Hawks, who are now 2-7-0 and have only 5 points, are tied for last in the entire NHL with Tampa Bay and Columbus. If the Sabres had blown this opportunity, they may have not had another chance to win on the road for quite a while.

Redemption for Zhitnik

Lindy Ruff made the bold move to put Alexei Zhitnik right back into the lineup after his 4-game suspension ended. Zhitnik came out and proved Ruff made the right move when he helped set up two of the three Sabres goals. On the opening goal by J.P. Dumont, Zhitnik flew up to keep the puck in the Hawks zone. Stu Barnes battled the puck out of the left corner and fed it out directly to Dumont who broke in alone on Rob Tallas and beat the Chicago netminder on the stick side with a high shot.

On the Sabres third and final goal, Zhitnik kept the puck from crossing the blue line while the Sabres had a powerplay and shot it on Tallas. Dave Andreychuk, who was kneeling on the ice in front of Tallas, was able to poke it in the rebound even in his very awkward position.

After being lambasted by the press and fans alike and in everyone's wish list for being traded, Alexei came out strong and played a very steady game. If Zhit learns to play a heady game, he could be a valuable asset to the Sabres. It's the mental breakdowns that drive both the fans and Ruff crazy.

When reminded about how much money he lost with his four-game suspension, Zhitnik laughed and said, "Well that's the way it goes. There's nothing I can change right now. But I think I'm going to be a little more careful the next time."

"When you sit down healthy and you can't play, and it was 10 days for me, I just wanted to play," Zhitnik added. "It was one shift at a time, play my game as simple as possible, and usually good things happen when you don't rush anywhere."

Fire and Ice

After taking the 1-0 lead and sitting on it until a quarter through the second period, the Sabres had the momentum to really put the Hawks out of their misery like most teams have this year. But a costly turnover by Chris Gratton resulted in Alex Zhamnov picking up a loose puck in the Buffalo zone and he fed it to Tony Amonte who flipped it over a sprawled Dominik Hasek.

The Sabres showed their fire on the ice when they came right back and took the lead again just 20 seconds later.

Kevin Dean and the Sabres' Stu Barnes do a little dueling of the sticks in an attempt to gain control of the puck during the first period in Saturday's 3-1 Sabres victory.
[AP Photo/Frank Polich]

Curtis Brown, who has been invisible so far this season, took the puck in on Tallas and got it over to Miroslav Satan, who blasted it past the Chicago goalie. To add to the sudden Sabres explosion, the Black Hawks to a penalty and the Sabre capitalized on it only 56 seconds after Satan's goal. That was when Andreychuk got his third of the season and capped the scoring for the night.

"It's just one of those goals where I'm just trying to get in front of the net for a screen and I just take a whack at it," Andreychuk described his goal. "It was just a quick shot and Robbie (Tallas) doesn't know where it is and it goes through his legs."

Dominik's Zone

After such a miserable start, Dominik Hasek has suddenly righted his ship and seems to be sailing out of troubled waters. Hasek won his third straight game and, even though he only faced 22 shots, Doms is looking more and more like the Hasek of Vezina vintage. After being tested only 12 times in the first two periods, the Dominator had to be sharp when the Hawks peppered him with ten in the final stanza.

Hasek looked stiff and tentative in his first 4 games after returning a knee injury. The past three, all victories, has seen the return of the Dominator Gumby. He's once again sprawling and showing his spineless true self again.

"For us it was an important two points," said the goalie who sat behind Eddie Belfour while with the Hawks. "And for me personally, I'd like to get back to .500. We didn't give them too many chances, especially in the first two periods. In the third they tried hard, but we had control of the game."

"I'd give him an A-plus," commented Ruff on Hasek's play. "He made three or four really big saves for us. They had their defense pinching, their defense joining in the third period, creating havoc."

Sword Cuts

Three Sabres are on the threshold of entering the realm of some elite company. Hasek is only one win away from his 200th Sabres victory. Doug Gilmour, who has 890 career assists, is two assists away from passing former Sabre Dale Hawerchuk for being 13th on the all-time assist list. Then there's Dave Andreychuk, who with two more goals, will bypass John Bucyk for 16th place for all-time NHL goal getter. Andreychuk now has 555 career goals. It is most fitting that he achieve the goal of passing the great Bucyk while wearing a Sabres uniform.

Hawk Rage

Not only are the fans and media fuming about the Hawks terrible start this season, but the team itself is ready to explode at the seams.

First-year Hawks coach Alpo Suhonen, who is noted to be mild-mannered, is about to turn into a holy terror if things don't turn around immediately for his club.

"We fought hard to get back and then we just let it go," said a mortified Suhonen. "It's unacceptable, there is no excuse for that."

Tony Amonte, the team only full-fledged star and spokesman said, "Alpo was definitely angry. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He got as mad as he can get."

"You can't make the playoffs in October, but you sure as heck can put yourself in a position not to make them," said Amonte. "We're better players than we're showing."

Maybe the Hawks will try Anger Therapy to get back on track. Black Hawk defenseman Anders Eriksson, who is also one to not show his emotions, is on the brink of total eruption.

"Multiply [Alpo's anger] by 100," retorted Eriksson when a reporter asked him how he felt after the latest Chicago loss.

Ice Chips

The Sabres have six days off until their next game, which is Friday November 3 at HSBC Arena against the Montreal Canadiens. Even though the Sabres do not have too many bumps and bruises, they probably could use the time to get some R & R and maybe spend some valuable time with their families.

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