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Buffalo Sabres' rookie forward Curtis Brown was excited earlier this week to find out that he was going to play on a line with Pat LaFontaine and Donald Audette. That excitement lasted less than two minutes.

LaFontaine was injured in the opening moments of Thursday's game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and missed the rest of the contest. His concussion also kept him sidelined for Friday's game against the Washington Capitals.

"I had a few opportunities to play with them (earlier in the season), but not for a whole game," Brown said. "It's definitely a treat to be able to go out there and know you're going to play with those two guys. They're so nifty with the puck, and they're always thinking one step ahead of the game. All that does is make it easier on me.

"When I go out there and play with them, I constantly tell them to let me know what they want me to do. Unfortunately, we didn't get to play together for very long, but that's hockey."

LaFontaine's spot at center was taken by Brian Holzinger. Those two players have similar skills at the center position, which made the adjustment easier for Brown.

"I've played with Brian quite a bit already," Brown said. "Thursday night we were talking about it. We know where each other is, and we are able to make a few plays that we weren't able to make before because we were new with each other. We played well together in both games."

LaFontaine's injury was one of several noteworthy events in the Sabres' week. The list also included one-sided losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, long practices and meetings, and wins over Pittsburgh and Washington.

"You're going to win some and you're going to lose some, and we went full circle this last week," Brown said. "We have to remember what we did to get those wins, and we have to come back next week and continue to grow with every game. We're a young team, and we have to learn from our mistakes."

Brown said some of the veteran players had pulled him aside and told him not to become despondent over the circumstances.

"The guys are great here, and they helped me out," he said. "They came over and said to keep working hard, that things would turn around for us.

"It's funny. When I started in junior in Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan), we had a young team for a couple of years. We had some hard times too. This last week was similar to that, and I learned a lot from that time. I know not to get too high when things are going good, or too low when things aren't going good."

LaFontaine should be back in the lineup for Thursday's home game against the Montreal Canadiens. Sabres coach Ted Nolan is a little concerned about how the center was hurt, as he was clobbered in a collision with Pittsburgh's Francois Leroux.

"I'm worried about guys taking liberties with him like that," he said. "If he's in a safe working environment, guys don't usually step up and hit. But in time, we'll get some people in here so that those types of things don't happen. Patty got caught with his head down, and that's part of the game. But he's a very intelligent player, and he'll know how to stay away from that next time."

The Sabres probably will be monitoring LaFontaine's progress closely this week. He missed two games last season with a concussion, and professional sports teams are becoming increasingly aware of problems associated with multiple head injuries. Hockey and football players in recent years have been forced to retire because of continuing health risks associated with concussions.

The Sabres don't play another game until the Thursday night against the Canadiens. It's rather unusual to go five straight days -- including a Saturday and Sunday -- without a game. Nolan decided to give his players the weekend off.

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