Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

April 5, 2007

SABRES NOTEBOOK: Afinogenov back in action, finished with assist

BUFFALO — After missing 21 games with a broken left wrist, Maxim Afinogenov returned to the lineup Thursday in the Sabres regular season home finale, a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.

The speedy winger’s first shift wasn’t a memorable one, though. He came on to a rousing ovation with 16:22 left in the first period, teaming with Daniel Briere during a 4-on-4 situation.

Just 23 seconds in, however, Boston’s Andrew Ference scored the game’s opening goal, following up on a Phil Kessel shot.

But Afinogenov still found a way to wow the home crowd. He nearly cashed one in later in the period, then put a nifty move on in the second that Hannu Toivenen got a toe on. He added a great chance in the period’s final minute when he ripped a blast off a feed from Derek Roy.

On the night, Lindy Ruff used Afinogenov with a host of linemates, including Roy and Thomas Vanek, whom he paired with earlier this season.

Afinogenov finished with 14:27 of playing time, and assisted on Derek Roy’s goal.

•••

As if home fans needed it, the Sabres sent home fans a pre-playoff reminder on Thursday — a two-goal deficit is not insurmountable. Buffalo got behind 2-0 in the first 14:01, but responded with two goals in the next four and a half minutes.

It’s nothing new, Buffalo has won nine games in which it trailed by two goals this season.

And speaking of the fans, Thursday’s crowd made it official — the Sabres sold out all 41 home dates. The crowd also saluted the Sabres with a standing ovation through the final seconds of the third period.

The team responded in turn, coming to center ice and waving their sticks after the final horn sounded.

•••

You don’t hear it often, but Ales Kotalik was penalized in the second period for playing with a broken stick. Kotalik’s stick was knocked from him during a power play, then he played the puck after knocking a small piece of the stick into the neutral zone. He retreated on defense and was called a minute later.

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