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McCormick hits personal milestones

One of these nights, Cody McCormick will cash in and post what's dubbed a "Gordie Howe hat trick." The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are getting big dividends from the major bargain on their roster.

McCormick, Buffalo's rugged leader in penalty minutes with 98, racked up another fight in Thursday's 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. But more important was the winger's second-period goal that broke a 1-1 tie and the cross-checking penalty he drew from Canes defenseman Jussi Jokinen in the third period that led to the Sabres' third goal.

McCormick had the goal and the assist but no fight to complete his Howe in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Philadelphia. He has points in three of his last four games and his 13 points are now a career high. So are his six goals. What allowed McCormick to set an early tone for the game was his first-period tussle with Carolina's Troy Bodie.

"It's not something you say before a game that you want to go out and fight," McCormick said. "You just kind of go with it if it can help a team. First and foremost is you want to help a team any way you can if it's a goal, an assist or a fight."

"He's done everything we've asked and probably more," said coach Lindy Ruff. "When it comes to putting goals on the board, again another fight gave us a little bit energy at the same time. He goes out and goes after it. He's a good two-way player."

As offense goes, McCormick is a bargain on this team.

Re-signed to a $500,000 deal over the summer that is the lowest figure on the roster, McCormick has the same number of goals as much higher-priced talent like Tim Connolly ($4.5 million) and Jochen Hecht ($3.5 million).

The line of McCormick, Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe has been a huge success the last two games, with that trio combining for four goals. McCormick's goal Thursday came when he flipped home a rebound of Jordan Leopold's point shot, snapping a 1-1 tie at 11:49 of the second period.

"Just going to the net is where the goals are and that's where I can get my goals, on the inside on the goalie," McCormick said. "A couple rebound chances have ended up going in for me. I'm getting some good chances, reading off other players."

McCormick played a season-high 16:12 in Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. He got 15:18 on Thursday, including the key final shift of the game as the Sabres were protecting their lead.

"Being out there in the last shift up by a goal is a great feeling," McCormick said. "You just always have to be ready no matter what. You just wait and if your number is called you have to do the job."

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The Sabres had been using seven defenseman for the last five games but went back to six for this one, thus scratching captain Craig Rivet.

Ruff said it was largely because of uncertainty surrounding the status of Thomas Vanek and Mike Grier. Vanek injured his hand Tuesday while Grier was nursing a lower-body injury but both played regular shifts Thursday.

"I just decided we should have an insurance policy in case one of those guys didn't have enough for us," Ruff said.

This is the third spell of the season as a scratch for Rivet, who has missed 14 games while healthy.

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The Sabres had a pregame moment of silence in memory of Dawn Hamilton, who passed away Wednesday night after a four-year battle with cancer. She was the wife of longtime WGR Radio reporter Paul Hamilton.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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