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Lindy Ruff


C - Michael Peca, Brian Holzinger, Curtis Brown, Wayne Primeau, Erik Rasmussen, Derek Plante. LW - Dixon Ward, Geoff Sanderson, Michal Grosek, Paul Kruse. RW - Vaclav Varada, Miroslav Satan, Matthew Barnaby, Rob Ray. D - Darryl Shannon, Alexei Zhitnik, Jason Woolley, Jay McKee, Richard Smehlik, James Patrick, Mike Wilson. G - Dominik Hasek, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron.


Paul Kruse, lw (hip flexor, day-to-day).


December 18: traded Donald Audette, rw, to the Los Angeles Kings for a second-round pick in the 1999 entry draft. NY Rangers claimed Rumun Ndur, d, off waivers. December 16: recalled Martin Biron, g, from Rochester of the AHL. Reassigned Randy Cunneyworth, lw, and Domenic Pittis, c, to Rochester. December 10: recalled Domenic Pittis, c, from Rochester. December 7: reassigned Mike Hurlbut, d, to Rochester.


12/08 at St. Louis  T 2-2
12/11 NY Rangers    W 2-0
12/12 at Boston     W 4-1
12/18 Montreal      W 4-2
12/19 Carolina      L 3-2
12/21 at Carolina   W 4-1


Northeast Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA   
  Toronto           32  19  11   2    40  105   90  
  Buffalo           28  17   6   5    39   83   51   
  Boston            30  15   9   6    36   82   61 
  Ottawa            29  14  12   3    31   86   73   
  Montreal          32   8  17   7    23   70   92


by Matt Barr, Buffalo Correspondent

We apologize for the level of our attention to detail and minutiae the last two weeks, as we've spent most of it welcoming Kathryn Rene Barr, born December 14, onto this planet. Those late-night replays of games that Empire airs are going to come in awfully handy the rest of the season...

Audette Shipped to L.A.

On December 18 the team fulfilled disgruntled winger Donald Audette's request for a trade by sending him to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a second-round pick in the 1999 entry draft.

Buffalo-based rumors that the deal was to be Audette for one or both of highly regarded Kings prospects Olli Jokinen or Aki Berg were met with the derision they deserved by serious analysts. Darcy Reiger wouldn't take Jokinen and Berg for Audette, a legitimate second- or third-line 25-goal scorer, unless his L.A. counterpart Dave Taylor threw in Charlie Simmer and former GM Rogie Vachon's BMW 7-series, so to sew things up before the weekend they settled on the pick and called it a night.

The NHL prohibits transaction activity such as three time zone trades between December 20 and 27.

Audette's former teammates expressed regret and serene acceptance of the business side of hockey and confidence Audette would be a fine addition to the Kings and pretty much all the other party-line stuff the organization told them to say.

While an early second round pick is probably good value for a smallish 25-goal scorer who wants two million a year, the trade is interesting less for what was received than for what was not. Obviously, the Kings aren't going to part with Jokinen or Berg unless it's in a Pavel Bure trade, but Audette is prime fodder to be packaged with a defenseman and a prospect, say, for a Theo Fleury-type or a top three defenseman later in the season. Fleury is unlikely to be re-signed by the Flames in the off- season and will be an unrestricted free agent.

Either Reiger and the organization are softies who wanted to accommodate Audette as quickly as they could -- Reiger claimed to have held out hope until only shortly before pulling the trigger that Audette would come back -- or they're satisfied with the team they've got. Something to mull over during the Christmas season.

Ndur a Beginning?

To make room on the roster for the second-round pick in 1999 they received in the Audette trade, the Sabres placed Rumun Ndur on waivers, where he was claimed by the New York Rangers.

Just kidding. The Sabres wanted to assign Ndur to Rochester, and under league rules all three-year pros must clear waivers before such a reassignment. Twelve teams passed on Ndur before the Rangers, coached by the man who drafted the big Nigerian, John Muckler, snatched him up.

Should the Rangers attempt to assign Ndur to their minor league affiliate, the Pittsburgh Penguins, any time this year, Buffalo will be first in priority to reclaim him at the discounted price of $30,000, half what the Rangers paid.

Home and Home For Christmas

Following one of their worst efforts of the season against the reeling Habs December 18, the team went head to head with the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes on December 19 and 21, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of expansion, franchise relocation and division realignment in the game today.

The Sabres were outplayed for 45 minutes of the Montreal game, but the death of Bunny Laroque and the disappearance of Steve Penney from the pro hockey scene have left Montreal without legitimate goaltending, allowing the Sabres to escape with a 4-2 win. The game followed the team's third five-day layoff, and was Dominik Hasek's first action in practice or otherwise in three days. Hasek's wife underwent back surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota during the break.

Lindy Ruff had his players supremely prepared the following night in Buffalo against the Hurricanes, and the team unloaded 40 shots at Trevor Kidd, quite a few on odd-man situations. Kidd was Hasekesque for a game, and the 'Canes survived a third period played with only three regular defensemen and winger Paul Ranheim playing back after Adam Burt, Steve Chiasson, Curtis Leschyshyn and Torrie Robertson all went down with injuries.

Kidd earned the start two nights later in Greensboro, but the Sabres pounced on him early, scoring two power-play goals after an 0-for-13 drought. Miroslav Satan and Peca did the honors, assisted by Jason Woolley, who added a second-period goal for a three-point night. Satan added an empty-net goal late in the third, his third goal of the home-and-home.

Hasek Named Player of the Fortnight

Dominik Hasek was named NHL player of the week on both December 7 and December 14, his first week in December was that damn good.

Going into the December 21 rematch against the Hurricanes, Hasek's vitals for December were 6-1-1, 1.74 GAA, .943 Sv%, two shutouts. One of those shutouts was against the Rangers, whom he'd shut out three straight times prior to a pedestrian 4-2 win earlier in the season, on December 11.

Hasek Rules the World

In addition to talent, Hasek has a substantial lead on Olaf Kolzig in all-star votes, 154,107 to 37,177 through December 15. Hasek leads in votes for the "World" team by a mile. Alexei Zhitnik is fourth among defenseman, making us miss Borje Salming.

Cap'n Crunch, Michael Peca, is sixth in voting among centers for the North American team.

Hasek Discovers All-Natural, Herbal Remedy for Chlamydia

Actually, just a note that five Sabres junior-age prospects will be representing their countries at the World Junior Championships in Winnipeg in 1999:

  • Brian Campbell, D, Ottawa 67s (Canada)
  • Mike Pandolfo, F, Boston University (U.S.)
  • Mika Noronen, G, Tappara (Finland)
  • Maxim Afinogenov, F, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
  • Hendrik Tallinder, D, AIK Stockholm (Sweden)

Campbell leads the 67s in scoring and the Ontario League in assists and scoring by defensemen. Afinogenov is tied for the lead in the Sabres organization in syllables.

It's All Fun Till Someone Gets Hurt

Matthew Barnaby missed the December 19 game against Carolina after he sprained his ankle screwing around with Rob Ray in the dressing room before the game.

This is one of those synergic moments when you realize no smart- ass remark could draw more attention to the absurdity of life than the facts themselves.

Todd Harvey... Good Day

If you're wondering on March 19 when the Rangers come to town next why Rob Ray or Dale Hunter or whoever is in charge of Manly Retribution for the Sabres by then is pounding the living crap out of some baby-faced kid in a blue shirt, it's because he deserves it.

When Vaclav Varada beat Todd Harvey to score an empty-net goal on the 11th, Harvey ran him into the boards while Varada celebrated. Now, you can say that anyone who celebrates an empty-net goal deserves to get mooshed, and you may be right, but the fact remains that a player is hardly expecting or bracing for a forearm to the face after he's scored a goal. Didn't the league used to suspend people 21 games for that?

Harvey was suspended for one game and fined $1,000, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, for the incident. Messrs. Ray and Barnaby were asked to leave in the waning seconds of the game for getting all ornery about it.

Comings and Goings

Derek Plante, Wayne Primeau and Richard Smehlik all returned from injuries the last two weeks. In Smehlik's case, it's a good thing, otherwise Mike Wilson would have to play, and Lindy Ruff clearly would like to avoid that if at all possible. Wilson was a healthy scratch in three out of the last five games and saw such limited time against Montreal that I originally typed "four straight games" before I double-checked my boxscores. I told you, I've got a newborn, cut me a break.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Beyond Hasek (stats through December 21):

  • Curtis Brown is scoring consistently and making his presence felt in both ends. He's 4-4-8 and plus-7 in his last seven games.
  • Miroslav Satan has five goals and three assists in his last six.
  • Michal Grosek has five assists and is plus-four in his last four games, and a four-game assist streak.
Each of the three share team scoring leadership with nine goals apiece and 22 or 21 points.

Others Receiving Votes

We reported last issue that Erik Rasmussen was establishing himself as a regular and seeing some time opposite Peca and Varada. Well, he still is.

Rasmussen is seeing as much ice time as any other forward as the month goes on and his physical presence up front is a great match with Peca and Varada. He also centers the third or fourth line particularly when Derek Plante is flu-ridden or ineffective and Wayne Primeau is ouchie. The large Minneapolis native is unlikely to relinquish his spot in the lineup, which is just exactly what Plante and Primeau did not want for Christmas.

We only hope that if the Sabres are playing .500 hockey in the month leading up to the trade deadline in March that Rasmussen isn't the guy the organization feels it has to part with to add some oomph. He and Rochester rookie defenseman Cory Sarich are going to be the guys everyone is asking for.

Not, Not, Not

We'd avoided this heading in previous issues because no one who got a regular shift really seemed to fit for a while there, but here goes: where's Geoff Sanderson, Mr. 40-goal Man from earlier in the season? Sandy is pointless in his last seven through December 21. And will Brian Holzinger, who can wow you every few games, ever develop more consistency than butterscotch pudding? And what is Mike Wilson's problem, for God's sake?

Chalk it up to Christmas angst and postpartum letdown.

The Last Word

"Fortunately for us the bus was a little bigger than the car."
-- Rochester defenseman Mike Hurlbut after a car struck the Amerks' team bus on December 20.

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