Niagara Gazette

February 11, 2009

SABRES NOTEBOOK: Power play is powerless without Vanek

By Tim Schmitt

BUFFALO — The Sabres power-play showed obvious signs of missing star Thomas Vanek in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Vanek, who will miss close to a month with a broken jaw, has scored 15 of the team’s 48 power-play goals. On Wednesday, the Sabres had a dozen chances, and only converted once — on Ales Kotalik’s third-period goal.

Buffalo played nearly a full period with the man-advantage, finishing with 19:29 of power play time.

Paul Gaustad, who typically sets up shop in front of the net on the power play, is also out with an upper-body injury.

“Our two best net guys (out), that makes a difference,” Lindy Ruff said after. “We’re just going to have to make some adjustments.”

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Give Patrick Kaleta credit for trying to stir things up after the Sabres fell behind 3-0 in the second period.

Kaleta ran at a pair of Senators in the ensuing shift, absorbing a big hit from Anton Volchenkov in the middle. He then got popped from behind by Ottawa’s Jason Smith, who appeared to hold Kaleta up after the hit. The Sabres’ agitator then dropped the gloves and Smith followed suit, both tumbling to the ice with Smith on top.

Somehow, Smith was assessed a 6-minute penalty, giving the Sabres new life.

Buffalo couldn’t manage to get one past Brian Elliott, however, and Drew Stafford later took a two-minute minor that negated some of the power-play time.

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Things got chippy late in the contest as Nick Foligno took what looked like an unprovoked run at Ryan Miller in the waning moments. Toni Lydman had made nominal contact with Foligno as both players skated toward the net, but Foligno drilled Miller with an elbow. Chris Butler came to Miller’s defense and both he and Foligno received minors.

Miller admitted their was plenty of traffic in front of the net throughout the night, including a waved off goal in which Jarkko Ruutu interfered with Miller.

“The refs picked up on it except for the second goal (scored by Shean Donovan),” Miller said. “I thought he was in the crease.

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Teppo Numminen left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. The team did not update his status for Friday night’s game against Boston. ... The loss was just the second the Sabres suffered in their retro jerseys. Buffalo is no 9-2 in the throwback uniforms. ... Kotalik’s goal was his first in eight games and just the second he’s scored in his last 12 starts.

Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.