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Dominik Hasek is on record as saying he wants to remain in Buffalo. The opening-night booing didn't bother him. He expects it will turn around once the team wins a few games at home.

However, his agent, Rich Winter, told Brenda Alesii, a reporter/producer from the Empire Sports Network, that it might be better for Dominik to be out of Buffalo given the way he's been treated by the fans and media here.

Winter refused to go on camera with the remarks, but he did not say they were off the record. Winter has also told a reporter in Florida that Hasek would look pretty good playing for the Panthers at some point in his career.

What looks good about Florida to any player not playing in that state is the tax advantages. There is no state income tax in Florida, and that's a considerable boost to the income of a $4 million player.

Larry Quinn, Darcy Regier and Winter all huddled in Buffalo the day after the home opener, Hasek's state of mind being the obvious subject of discussion.

The Hasek issue has the potential to be troublesome for the Sabres. If the player or his agent is strongly bothered by what has now been two straight games of booing and a great deal of anti-Hasek sentiment on talk radio, Hasek might be prompted to suggest he would be happier elsewhere.

The Sabres aren't likely to want to do that given they've gone through a lot this offseason to keep Hasek. Displacing Ted Nolan as coach seems to show a huge commitment to Hasek.

It's likely the booing will calm down with a few more strong performances, such as Thursday's effort against Washington, but management also has to keep an eye on the chemistry between Hasek and the players. It appeared strained after the loss to the Stars in the home opener, and several players loyal to Nolan have said privately it's going to need more than a few games to come around to the unity the team showed last season.

However, some other players said they thought Hasek was the only reason the team was able to stay on the ice in the season-opening win at St. Louis and that Hasek played well enough at Washington and at Tampa Bay. They also said team unity should improve as the distractions surrounding the start of this season move to the background.

A banner evening in Detroit

Banner night at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit was a lot more poignant for the Red Wings then the affair in the Marine Midland Arena.

The Stanley Cup champions hoisted the only championship banner that really matters and it was an extremely emotional night for the Wings and their fans.

First they honored defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and massage therapist Sergei Mnatsakanov, who suffered severe head injured in a June 13 limo accident just after the Wings won the Cup.

Their wives, Irina Konstantinov and Yelena Mnatsakanov, were presented with flowers and stood with the rest of the team on the blue line, representing their injured husbands. Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Gary Bergman and Hall of Fame broadcaster Bruce Martyn carried the new banner from center ice as the Wings captain, Steve Yzerman, and assistant captains Nick Lidstrom and Brendan Shanahan all carried the Stanley Cup one last time. The banner was then sent to the rafters.

The Wings then played the game with the word "believe" stitched into their sweaters. It's spelled in English and in Russian, with the injured men's initials under it. The "believe" idea originated last spring when a women sent Slava Kozlov a rock with the word inscribed on it, and he promptly scored a goal that night. Kozlov kept the rock in his locker both at home and on the road during the run to the Stanley Cup and has sent it to his injured teammate. The Wings will wear the "believe" patch all season.

Leroux heads up front

The Colorado Avalanche has no intention of playing Francois Leroux on defense now that they've brought him over from Pittsburgh. The plan is to play Leroux on the left wing and give the Avs a bit more of a physical presence up front, something that's been lacking since the trade of Chris Simon to the Washington Capitals last season.

Sabre fans might remember it was Leroux who knocked Pat LaFontaine senseless back in October, setting the ex-captain on the road that culminated with his trade to the New York Rangers.

How welcome is Leroux's toughness? "I think the biggest change on our team has been the addition of Francois Leroux," said Avs goalie Patrick Roy.

Stars make the rounds

Were it not for the Buffalo Sabres, the Dallas Stars would be winless on banner nights.

The Stars opened the season in Colorado, where they raised West Division championship and President's Trophy banners. The Stars tied, 2-2.

Dallas then had its home opener against St. Louis, where the team raised its own Central Division title banner. The Stars lost, 2-1. They then came to Buffalo, where Sabres raised the Northeast title banner, but the Stars won, 4-2.

After that, Dallas went to Detroit and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Red Wings.

Howe about that

Wayne Gretzky has almost every major record in the NHL book, but he likely won't pursue the one Gordie Howe extended just last week. Howe played one shift with the Detroit Vipers of the International League, thereby extending his streak of decades playing pro hockey to six.

Hokey to be sure, but Gretzky said he likely would not go after that mark.

"I'm not challenging it," Gretzky said. "Maybe I can convince Gordie to keep going so my boy Ty plays with him, though."

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