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SABRES HOPE GOAL OUTBURST PAYS DIVIDENDS TONIGHT

The Federal Goal Reserve Bank does not exist.

There is no puck depository a team can use to sock away a surplus of goals for a rainy day.

But that's not to say a scoring windfall, such as Saturday night's 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, can't be an investment.

The Sabres can only hope their abundant scoring will pay further dividends when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators tonight (7; Empire, Radio 107.7 FM, 1330) in HSBC Arena.

Buffalo chased Martin Brodeur in the second period Saturday, but the All-Star goaltender didn't get much help from a ramshackle team beset with injuries to several key players. The loss dropped the Devils to 0-2-3-1 since the All-Star break.

"It's a big stress relief for the all the guys to sit back and be confident with the puck out there," said defenseman Jason Woolley, one of four Sabres to score against the Devils. "But we know we can't take anything for granted against Ottawa, who's playing unbelievable."

History should warn Buffalo not to bank on any momentum even after a surge.

In games after the Sabres drop a five-spot, they are 1-5 with a combined 10 goals. Their lone win came in overtime against the New York Islanders two weeks ago.

"Ottawa is going to be a tough contest with the top three lines they've got and the speed they've got in their lineup," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's going to be a more different matchup than (New Jersey) was."

The Senators are riding a six-game unbeaten streak, including victories over the Colorado Avalanche and the Devils.

The Senators lead the conference with 76 points. The Sabres are in sixth place with 66 points, six ahead of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.

Buffalo has beaten Ottawa twice in a row behind brilliant goaltending from Dominik Hasek.

The Dominator faced a total of 67 shots those games, shutting the Senators out in December and holding them to one goal nine days ago. The latter featured Maxim Afinogenov's thrilling overtime game-winner, his second such goal in as many games.

Tonight marks the first time since a home-and-home set with the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 3 and 5 that the Sabres have played consecutive games against teams with above-.500 records. That's probably good, considering the Sabres' puzzling tendency of beating good squads and losing to poor ones.

The Sabres' offense -- ignited lately by the hot play of Miroslav Satan and Afinogenov -- could get an added boost if wingers J.P. Dumont and Dave Andreychuk can go tonight. Both took part in the team's optional workout Sunday at the Amherst Pepsi Center.

Dumont, absent the last two games with a strained muscle along his rib cage, said he could return despite a scary moment that occurred during a breakaway drill.

Backup goalie Martin Biron pokechecked Dumont and tripped him, forcing him to crash headlong into the boards. Dumont gingerly arose, grinning.

"That was a good test," said Dumont, who suffered his injury when he whiffed on a shot in last week's loss in Atlanta. "I think I'm ready."

It would be a surprise if Andreychuk dressed tonight. Ruff said on Saturday that Andreychuk would be out five to seven days because of knee swelling. But Andreychuk, who had four goals and three assists in the seven games before his injury, said he felt fine after the workout.

Witnessing an offensive display such as the one the Sabres turned in against the Devils has a way of inspiring players to get back on the ice.

"It's hard (to watch)," said Dumont, "but it feels good to know when I come back they're probably going to be on a streak. It's fun to come back that way."

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