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RUFF SAYS DEFENSE PAID COVER CHARGE AGAINST DEVILS

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff came away from Saturday's 3-2 road loss to the New Jersey Devils with mixed reactions.

The Sabres played a strong first period and had chances to win it thanks to the play of goalie Steve Shields, who had an impressive first start of the regular season.

"The first period we moved the puck well," Ruff said. "In the second period we got running around and we got caught with no high man and the (defense) got caught pinching," Ruff said.

Also, a missed coverage allowed New Jersey's Bobby Holik to tie the game at 2-2 early in the third period.

"We made a mistake off the faceoff and it was in our own net," Ruff said.

Late in the game, the Sabres had opportunities to get the tying goal, the biggest with a two-man advantage for 27 seconds. But their power play continued to be unproductive and they couldn't take advantage. Buffalo was 1 for 7 on the power play against the Devils, who have killed off 17 of 18 penalties. The Sabres are 3 for 27 on the power play after six games.

The Sabres' penalty killers yielded a pair of goals on six New Jersey attempts, one on a five-on-three situation and the other, the winner by Dave Andreychuk, on a five-on-four situation. Andreychuk, the 24th-leading goal scorer in NHL history with 504, redirected a slap shot by another veteran, Doug Gilmour, the 25th-ranking assist maker (758) in league history, to produce the victory.

The Sabres (2-3-1) begin serious defense of their Northeast Division title this week in their first games of the season against divisional opponents -- at Carolina on Wednesday and home against Montreal on Friday.

A 17-9-2 record in division games was a major factor in the Sabres winning the regular-season title last year. Only Carolina, the former Hartford Whalers, among Northeast teams owned a series advantage over the Sabres at 4-2. Buffalo was 5-0 vs. Boston, 3-0-2 vs. Montreal, 4-2 against Ottawa and 3-3 against Pittsburgh.
Center Derek Plante, who was feeling much better and had hoped to play Saturday after missing the previous two games with back spasms, was held out against New Jersey. Scott Nichol again played in his place.

Sunday night, Nichol was back with the Rochester Americans for their game against the Syracuse Crunch in Marine Midland Arena.

Buffalo expects to have left wing Brad May back for the Carolina game. May has not played since suffering a shoulder injury in a preseason game against Toronto at the Arena.

Defenseman Jason Woolley, who has not played since the regular-season opener for Buffalo, also might be ready for action this week. He suffered a fractured left thumb in the final preseason game against Carolina.

The Rochester Americans opened their "home" AHL schedule at Marine Midland Arena on Sunday night with a 3-2 victory over Syracuse. The Sabres affiliate played their first game in Buffalo since 1987 because the Rochester War Memorial is in the first stage of a two-year renovation and is not available until Nov. 1.

Martin Biron (1-1-1) picked up his first win of the season in goal for the Amerks, stopping 21 of 22 shots. Biron entered the game after starting goalie Mike Bales was injured early in the opening period. He shut out the Crunch over the final two periods.

Martin Menard, a 21-year-old center, scored the game-winning goal for Rochester. It was his second goal of the game and fourth of the season, and it came 57 seconds into the third period with assists from Vaclav Varada and Dan Frawley.

Varada opened the scoring with his second of the season at 1:23 of the first with assists from Dane Jackson and Craig Charron. Menard got his first of the game on the power play with assists from Mike Hurlbut and Shayne Wright to make it 2-1 at 5:35 of the first. Jan Hrdina tied it against Biron, but the 20-year-old slammed the door shut after that.

There were 50 minutes in penalties, including five fighting majors in the first period.

The announced attendance was 5,583.

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