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Afinogenov's key turnover leads to benching

BOSTON -- Maxim Afinogenov has just three goals on the season, none in the last five games. He keeps giving away the puck, as his team-worst minus-9 rating shows.

When yet another giveaway led to the Boston Bruins' first goal Saturday night, Afinogenov found a seat on the bench for most of the third period of the Buffalo Sabres' 2-1 loss at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Sabres were totally dominating play with a 32-11 advantage in shots on goal when Afinogenov was stripped at the Boston line by Marco Sturm, who eventually broke down the ice and scored on a Marc Savard pass with 1:44 left in the second period.

"It's a bad play by me and I have to take credit for that," Afinogenov said. "I made the mistake and I got benched. [Coach Lindy Ruff] was right."

Daniel Paille got the bulk of Afinogenov's ice time in the third period and scored the Sabres' only goal. Afinogenov, meanwhile, admitted he's struggling to score but knows he's not alone.

"It's not going my way right now but I'm just trying to keep working," he said. "We all are. If we play like that, someday the puck is going in. We got a lot of shots, a lot of good chances. There's nothing we can do right now. We just have to keep working."


Just like the Sabres, the Bruins are dealing with plenty of injury woes. The latest took place Thursday, when veteran defenseman Aaron Ward suffered a concussion when he was drilled into the boards by Montreal's Francis Bouillon.

Ward, who played on Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup championship team that ousted the Sabres in the Eastern Conference final, was out of the lineup Saturday for the first time this season.

The Bruins promoted rookie Matt Hunwick from Providence of the AHL to replace Ward. The team is hoping the NHL will levy a suspension on Bouillon for his hit.


Suspensions for illegal hits are still a touchy subject for the Bruins as they're still smarting over the concussion top forward Patrice Bergeron suffered Oct. 27 when he was hammered from behind by Philadelphia's Randy Jones. The NHL gave Jones a two-game suspension; Bergeron isn't expected back until January at the earliest.

Boston put Bergeron on long-term injured reserve Friday, and can thus use all or part of his $4.75 million salary on players to replace him on the roster.

Bergeron spoke to the Boston media for the first time Thursday and said he is still feeling neck pain from the hit. He appealed to his fellow players to stop dangerous hits from behind.

"Right now, part of this is to send a message that we need to think about the consequences when you go for a hit like that," Bergeron said.

"You have to hold back. Hitting is part of the game. But not from behind. As players, we need to respect each other a little bit more.

"I'm sure no one would like to be in my position right now. It's tough. But at the same time, I'm actually walking. It could be worse."


Friday night home games have long been the prime attraction on the schedule at HSBC Arena but the scoreboard hasn't been kind to Buffalo on them this season. Friday's 3-0 loss to Toronto dropped the Sabres to 0-4 on home Fridays this year.


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