The Buffalo Sabres were a hit Sunday night. In fact, they were a whole bunch of hits during a resounding 10-3 rout of the Quebec Nordiques before 14,404 at Memorial Auditorium.
There were Robbie Ray's two flying checks on the game's first shift. There was Lou Franceschetti's crunching corner slam of Guy Lafleur. And, for good measure, Dean Kennedy thoroughly pounded Owen Nolan and then Daniel Vincelette in a pair of altercations.
It seems the holiday spirit has moved the Sabres to give rather than receive.
Whatever the motivation, the Sabres appear to be grasping the aggressive style of play that coach Rick Dudley views as necessity.
Ray was instrumental in establishing a physical tempo during a rousing first shift that ended with him and Steven Finn each assessed a double minor for roughing. Later, Franceschetti leveled Lafleur.
"The message we want to send is that we're not an easy team to play against," Dudley said. "And for a long time we have been. It's not all that easy to play against us anymore, and that's a good sign. I think we've played pretty physical hockey lately. I like the team right now as well as I've liked it for a long, long time."
Kennedy went beyond physical to punishing. He dueled Nolan after the Quebec rookie flicked a shot at goaltender Daren Puppa following the referee's whistle.
Nolan instigated the altercation. Kennedy ended it with three quick rights to the head.
Kennedy got into it again with Vincelette, who probably will never make that mistake again. Kennedy snapped Vincelette's head back a dozen times in rapid succession, ultimately dropping him to the ice.
Ray and Kennedy were deserving of three-stars recognition, but both were easily overlooked in the parade of points.
The stars went to Uwe Krupp (four points), Christian Ruuttu (four points) and Pierre Turgeon (two goals).
However, Dudley acknowledged the openings that Ray's physical presence and relentless forechecking provide for linemates Turgeon and Dave Andreychuk.
"His big asset is that he gets in there and defensemen know they're going to be hit," Dudley said. "That means they move the puck quicker, which means a guy like Andreychuk or Turgeon can exploit that. It happened all night tonight."