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MEEHAN IS SYMPATHETIC TO TUCKER'S TRADE WISHES

Buffalo Sabres General Manager Gerry Meehan said Saturday he understood John Tucker's frustrations about not playing, but he declined to discuss the center's future in the media.

The News reported Saturday morning that Tucker had asked to be traded.

"I know how he feels," said Meehan, a former player who had to sit out games at different times in his playing career. "It's a difficult situation for him to be in, but we've made it clear to John that there were certain times he wasn't going to be playing.

"It's a tough situation for him, but a good thing for us to have a player of John's ability in our organization. It's a luxury that in the event of an injury we would have a player we can call on."

The two men did not meet in Quebec. Meehan arrived here late Saturday afternoon after a scouting trip in Southern Quebec and came directly to Le Colisee. Tucker, who was told earlier in the day that he would not be playing Saturday evening, remained in the team's hotel.

Meehan did not set a time when he would meet with Tucker, but it's likely to be sometimes this week.

Tucker has few options in the scenario. Meehan could accommodate him, call waivers and if he clears, send him to the minors or simply let the situation remain status quo.

Many teams are carrying extra players this season, anticipating having to leave a veteran exposed for an upcoming draft to staff the expansion San Jose Sharks in June. Tucker would appear to be Buffalo's most likely candidate.

Tucker is on a termination contract and likely would try and sign with another team next season. In that scenario, the Sabres would be most likely to leave him exposed to an expansion draft.

Tucker, 26, is in his seventh NHL season and in his second stint with the club. He has a goal and three assists in 14 games and had not played since Nov. 14 at Los Angeles.
The status of injured goaltender Daren Puppa will be reexamined in the hours before tonight's game with the Detroit Red Wings. Puppa, whose last start was Nov. 16 at Edmonton and whose last win was Nov. 3 at Boston, has missed four games with a back injury.

The Sabres Saturday inserted left winger Mike Hartman into the lineup and scratched Jiri Sejba. Hartman missed eight games with an infected elbow, played in one and then sat out the next three games. Sejba had played four straight games since being activated for the Nov. 21 contest vs. New York.

Buffalo also scratched Tucker, and injured defenseman Mike Ramsey (rib). The Nordiques scratched former Sabre Wayne Van Dorp and defensemen Darren Kimble and Daniel Vincelette.

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