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RANGERS GM FEEDS RUMOR MILL

The presence of New York Rangers general manager Neil Smith at the Aud Thursday night is bound to get the rumor mill stirred up again about a possible trade involving the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres.

Smith sat with Sabres presidentDoug Moss. Scouts from Chicago also were on hand, which no doubt will lend credibility to speculation that Jeremy Roenick of the Blackhawks may soon be involved in a major deal before the April 7 trading deadline.

Smith's Rangers are below .500, and if the playoffs began today, the defending Stanley Cup champions would not have qualified.

Viktor Gordiouk was called up from Rochester to take Matthew Barnaby's place in Buffalo's lineup against Ottawa. Barnaby has been bothered by a pinched nerve in his shoulder since he was slashed during the game in Philadelphia Sunday.

Other scratches included left wing Craig Simpson, who underwent a nerve block injection in his lower back to relieve pressure and swelling in the area. Simpson has missed the last four games because of the back problem. He missed five previously with a hamstring injury.

Defenseman Petr Svoboda was not in the lineup for the second straight game. Because his jaw is wired shut to allow a fracture to heal, Svoboda hasn't been able to eat solid food and has lost about seven pounds and some stamina.

Svoboda was injured March 16 and missed the next game before he was fitted with a protective shield which allowed him to play with the injury.

Ottawa summoned defenseman Darren Rumble on emergency recall from the Prince Edward Island Senators of the American Hockey League and brought up forwards Michel Picard and Steve Larouche from the AHL affiliate. The moves were to no avail, however.

None of the three was in the lineup even though they arrived well before game time from Cape Breton, where PEI played Wednesday night. However, their equipment was missing. It was located in Quebec and didn't get here in time.

Rumble was needed because defenseman Norm Maciver suffered a slight concussion against New Jersey Wednesday night and did not make the trip.

After Tuesday night's victory over Quebec, Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek said he didn't remember facing as many shots in a game this season.

He was right. Hasek faced 42 shots by the Nordiques, a season-high against the Sabres. Robb Stauber faced 39 shots against Tampa Bay at the Aud March 19.

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