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Sabres shake up their top line

MONTREAL -- The Buffalo Sabres broke up their top line in the third period of Friday night's stinker against the Florida Panthers and things stayed that way for Monday's game against the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Centre.

The beneficiary was winger Drew Stafford, who had a strong game in replacing Maxim Afinogenov on the line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek.

Stafford and Vanek each had a team-high five shots on goal as the line created plenty of chances. And, after entering the game a combined minus-13, the line kept the puck out of its net.

"It was great. I've been working for it, trying to work my way up," Stafford said following Buffalo's 2-0 defeat. "They gave me an opportunity and I was trying my best to get them the puck and make plays. Hopefully we can stick with it here and I can stick with them."

Afinogenov, whose minus-6 was the worst plus-minus figure on the club entering the game, skated with Ales Kotalik and Paul Gaustad.

"We had better balance on the lines," said coach Lindy Ruff. "I liked the way Stafford skated. They were in on some really good opportunities."

"We were getting the puck to the net and making plays," Stafford said. "We were generating a lot but [Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet] played well. He made a lot of good saves."


With Nolan Pratt (groin) and Jaroslav Spacek (shoulder) both out of the lineup, the Sabres recalled Mike Weber from Rochester for the second time this season to fortify the defense corps.

Weber, 19, was with the Sabres for their two-game Florida trip in October when Spacek was out with his first bout of shoulder trouble. Weber did not collect a point in either game. He has three assists and a team-high plus-5 rating in 13 games this year in Rochester.

In addition to Pratt and Spacek, the Sabres scratched center Michael Ryan. Andrew Peters dressed in his place.


The Canadiens entered the game as the NHL's top power-play unit, with an astonishing 31 percent success rate, but they went 0 for 2 in the game. Carolina began play Monday next at 24.7. The Sabres entered the game tied with Detroit for seventh at 22.2.

Montreal was second in power-play percentage at both home (27.0) and on the road (35.3). The Sabres came into the game ninth at home (20.6) and eighth on the road (24.1).


The Sabres have lost their last four games in the Bell Centre. . . . The Canadiens have yet to trail after the first period in any of their 14 games this year. The Sabres, meanwhile, gave up the first goal for the 10th time in 13 games. . . . The Sabres are on their second three-game skid of the season. They had just two losing streaks of three games all last season. . . . Rochester left winger Dylan Hunter was named American Hockey League Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday. Hunter, a 2004 Buffalo draft pick and the son of former NHL pest Dale Hunter, had two goals and five assists in three games as the Amerks went 3-0.


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