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
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
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
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):
Each of the three share team scoring leadership with nine goals
apiece and 22 or 21 points.
- Curtis Brown is scoring consistently and making his
presence felt in both ends. He's 4-4-8 and plus-7 in his last
- Miroslav Satan has five goals and three assists in his last
- Michal Grosek has five assists and is plus-four in his last
four games, and a four-game assist streak.
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
-- Rochester defenseman Mike Hurlbut after a car struck the
Amerks' team bus on December 20.