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CALF INJURY SHELVES ZHITNIK 3-6 WEEKS

The Buffalo Sabres, who have received more than their share of bad news in the area of injuries this season, heard some more on Tuesday.

Defenseman Alexei Zhitnik suffered a ruptured right calf muscle in a collision during Sunday's game with Tampa Bay. He will be out for three to six weeks. There are six weeks remaining in the regular season.

Zhitnik was taken to the hospital for X-rays after the game, and an initial diagnosis revealed a bruised knee. He was called day to day as of Sunday night.

However, Zhitnik was limping badly on Monday, and further tests revealed the calf rupture. The Sabres learned the results on Tuesday.

It's the latest in a series of injuries to many of the Sabres' best players this season.

Buffalo coach John Muckler thinks the league's compressed schedule is partially responsible.

"I think this is due to the lockout," he said. "There have been some unusual injuries, like a ruptured calf and a hamstring. I think we're playing so many games in a few days that players get tired, muscles get tired. I think that's exactly what's happening, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Zhitnik was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the Feb. 12 trade involving Grant Fuhr. He had never suffered an injury in his professional career before arriving in Buffalo in the transaction. Zhitnik broke a bone in a thumb on Feb. 19 in Pittsburgh, and missed four games.

Buffalo did get two players back from the injured list Tuesday.

Center Dave Hannan had missed the previous four games with back spasms, while defenseman Doug Bodger did not play against Tampa Bay Sunday because of the flu.

Three other Sabres are not playing because of injuries. Goalie Dominik Hasek (rotator cuff) and center Dale Hawerchuk (groin injury) are expected to be out seven to 10 more days. Left winger Brad May will miss several more weeks with broken bones in his right hand.

Buffalo has lost 100 man-games to injury in 1995.

The team had lost 85 man-games after 26 games in the 1993-94 season.
Office official Tony Caggiano made one of the best "saves" of the season Tuesday night.

Rosary Reichert was scheduled to sing the national anthem before the game, but was not present at game time. "Plan B" was to use a tape recording, but technical problems prevented that from working.

Enter Caggiano, who literally was asked to sing 30 seconds before it was time to perform.

Caggiano gave an excellent rendition of the two anthems, although he did sing the American version first for what could have been the first time in Sabres history.
The three stars were Luc Robitaille, Kevin Stevens, and Wayne Presley. . . . Viktor Gordiouk, Peter Ambroziak and Ken Sutton were the Buffalo scratches. . . . Ex-Sabres goalie Tom Barrasso, who has been out of the Penguins' lineup since Jan. 20 because of a wrist injury, still is out indefinitely. Pittsburgh coach Eddie Johnston said Barrasso will be examined in early April.

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