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Ellis, Byron called up from Portland

The Buffalo Sabres will be without at least three forwards for today's game against the New York Islanders, and they're getting reinforcements from the Portland Pirates for the matinee.

Drew Stafford (groin), Patrick Kaleta (hand) and Tim Connolly (hip flexor) were all ruled out by coach Lindy Ruff after practice Saturday morning. Ruff said Cody McCormick, who played less than eight minutes of Friday's loss to the Isles due to the flu, was feeling better.

Kaleta and Connolly, in fact, have been placed on injured reserve and will miss Tuesday's game in Ottawa as well.

To fill in the gaps, the Sabres announced Saturday night they have called up Matt Ellis and Paul Byron from Portland.

Byron is second on the Pirates in scoring with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). Ellis is fourth with 28 points (8-20). Ellis, of course, spent most of the last two seasons with the Sabres and was up for six games this year.

Byron, 21, will be making his first trip to the NHL. The 5-foot-9 center was Buffalo's sixth-round pick in 2007. He's listed at 144 pounds on the Sabres' Website and 170 on the Pirates' site.

Connolly played 11:38 in Boston and 12:02 Friday and Ruff said the hip problem is affecting his skating. Ruff added that he was hopeful Stafford could return Tuesday.

Kaleta's situation has Ruff the most concerned. The winger was playing with a broken hand and took another shot on the hand Thursday in Boston. He tried playing Friday night and was not able to go the final two periods.

"Pat's done for a while," Ruff said. "There's nothing on the medical exams that say he reinjured the broken hand. That doesn't mean there's not something little in there because he can't handle the puck right now. Obviously that blow did some added damage but nothing that showed up in the severe case. You just have to shut him down."

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The Islanders were a big story in the NHL Saturday as they claimed goalie Evgeni Nabakov off waivers, blocking the former San Jose star's $570,000 contract with Detroit. Nabakov had to go through waivers because he started the season in Europe, playing in Russia's KHL.

Nabakov, however, indicated through agent Don Meehan Saturday afternoon that he would not report.

The Isles are thin in goal as Rick DiPietro missed Friday's game with the flu, Nathan Lawson suffered a knee injury in the first period and fellow rookie Kevin Poulin finished. DiPietro practiced Saturday and could be available today.

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Ruff said Ryan Miller will start again today, even though he was pulled after just 10 1/2 minutes of Friday's game. The coach also had praise for backup Patrick Lalime, who got his first extended work since Nov. 20.

"Patty I thought played well, made a lot of good saves for us," Ruff said.

The Sabres' misfortune is to be playing the Islanders at this point of the schedule. There are three defined segments to New York's season: The Islanders opened 4-1-2, then won just one of their next 21 (going 1-17-3) as coach Scott Gordon was fired and replaced by Jack Capuano.

But since ending that stretch of horrid play, the Islanders have bounced back to go 10-6-2, including the two wins over Buffalo and victories over the likes of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Montreal.

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The two goals Nathan Gerbe scored in a five-second span Friday night were a Sabres record and one second shy of the NHL mark of four seconds set by Nels Stewart of the Montreal Maroons (Jan. 3, 1931) and Deron Quint of the Winnipeg Jets (Dec. 15, 1995).

The previous Buffalo mark of 10 seconds was set by Danny Gare on Nov. 8, 1980 at Washington and equaled by Derek Plante in the arena on Dec. 20, 1996 against Los Angeles.

"It's pretty cool but I'd rather worry about winning," said Gerbe, who set career highs in both ice time (20:22) and shots on goal (8) in the game.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com