By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — The line of Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik and Jiri Novotny has gone from one of the league’s most productive lines through the season’s first few weeks to one that’s ice cold.
In the seven games prior to Wednesday’s contest, the Drury-Kotalik-Novotny trio combined for two goals, six assists and a collective minus-9. After the team’s first nine games, the line had 15 goals, nine assists and a plus-4.
Referees took a long look at Peter Schaefer’s third-period goal, which gave the Senators a 3-2 lead, but allowed the goal to stand. Daniel Alfredsson fired a wrist shot at the net that Schaefer tipped.
Replays showed that Schaefer’s stick was high — somewhere in the vicinity of the crossbar — but camera angles couldn’t give a definitive view. The goal was just Schaefer’s second of the season.
Although Drew Stafford has quickly fit into the lineup, Lindy Ruff didn’t have the same confidence in rookie Mike Card down the stretch.
Card did not see the ice in the third period, forcing Ruff to use a number of other combinations, including extended time for Brian Campbell.
“With a 2-1 lead we tried to go with five defensemen,” Ruff said.
Campbell didn’t seem to tire much, but the extended work could hurt the team as it embarks on a stretch that sees Buffalo playing five times in the next eight nights.
And although tests on Toni Lydman (neck) were negative, Ruff said he doesn’t expect Lydman or any other players to return to the lineup.
Martin Biron bailed the Sabres out of a pair of first-period breakaways, both given up when the Sabres had the man advantage.
Alfredsson came clean first, but Biron stoned him. Later, Antoine Vermette stepped on the ice after the Sabres had a 5-on-3 situation and got a perfect pass that gave him a cleancut breakaway from the blue line. Vermette tried to slip a backhand between Biron’s pads, but the goalie shut his pads in time to make the save.
Schaefer was named the game’s first star, followed by Brian Campbell and Vanek.