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Hecht enjoying hot streak ; Sabres' center helps make up for Roy's loss

Jochen Hecht is appearing on the scoresheet night after night for the Buffalo Sabres, who were looking to the center to do just that after Derek Roy went down with a season-ending injury. Occasionally, though, Hecht is also appearing on the lowlights. He blew a defensive assignment at a critical moment late last month and whiffed on a game-winning chance this week.

He's doing fine juggling the good with the bad, with hopes he continues more of the former tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Hecht will enter Jobing.com Arena on one of the best runs of his career, a six-game point streak that overlaps the Sabres' four-game unbeaten streak. He's been getting increased minutes in the middle with Roy gone, and for the most part he's making it work.

"I put the work in, and to finally get rewarded is a nice feeling," Hecht said Friday. "It's helped the team get a little bit of a winning streak going. I'm just trying to stay calm out there, playing my game. If you trust yourself, things will fall into place and you will have success."

Hecht has goals in two straight games and three of four. His six-game run features four assists in addition to the three goals. He's two games shy of his career-best point streak of eight games, accomplished in 2000.

His numbers would look even better if it weren't for the miscues. He allowed Calgary's Jarome Iginla to blow by him for the go-ahead goal Dec. 27 in what became a 5-2 loss. In overtime Tuesday against Colorado, he shot wide while staring at an open net and the Sabres lost, 4-3.

"Overall, he's done a pretty good job," coach Lindy Ruff said. "The missed opportunity in Denver to win us a game was a tough one. Calgary was a tough one, too. But we've needed players to step up their play on the offensive side, and Jochen's definitely done it."

The offensive surge was a long time coming. The 33-year-old scored 21 times last season, and the Sabres expected a similar return on their annual investment of more than $3.5 million. Instead, Hecht struggled mightily.

It took him 15 games to score his first goal. He added just two in the next 21. His current run has lifted his season total to six, well off his usual pace but an improvement off his start nonetheless.

"Pucks going in, that's what I've noticed," Hecht said about the differences in his game between now and earlier in the year. "I'm just trying to concentrate on the next game and get focused with it, forget about what happened the game before, just look forward."

It's that approach that's allowed him to keep his streak despite the two rough moments.

"I think about that at night after the game, maybe the next day, but then you've got to block it out," he said.

"There's nothing you can do about it, so you just want to focus on the next game. You try to get the chances, and when you get them you put them in."

Hecht has been joined on the scoresheets by Thomas Vanek, who is finally enjoying another run of his own. The Sabres' perennial scoring leader has found the net in three straight games, a run that started after an eight-game drought.

Vanek's last two goals have come on the power play, with the left winger camped at the top of the crease.

"I'm just trying to find different areas around the paint like I always have, and so far the last two games we found two seams and we capitalized on it," he said. "I feel like on the streak of eight or whatever it was I was getting good chances. Does it [stink] that they don't go in? Sure, it does. It's frustrating. Every night it's frustrating. [Thursday] night, when I scored one, I could've had two more. I ended up with one, and it's still frustrating."

The angst, of course, is lessened with victories. The Sabres have a chance to end their three-game trip out West with a 2-0-1 record. Another victory would make them 4-1-1 since Roy went down, something few would have imagined.

"Since Derek's gone, there's a chance for a lot of guys to step up and play some extra minutes," Hecht said. "Guys are trying to take advantage of that, putting their game out there for the coaches to see."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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Sabres vs. Coyotes:    

Faceoff: 8:00 p.m. in Jobing.com Arena    

TV: MSG Radio: 550 AM    

Last season series: Sabres, 2-0

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