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SABRES DULL AGAIN IN LOSS TO LOWLY BLACKHAWKS

The Buffalo Sabres picked up on Sunday where they left off on Friday.

The Sabres, still reeling from an embarrassing 5-1 loss at home to the Montreal Canadiens, weren't noticeably better in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the United Center. The defeat extended Buffalo's winless streak to four games (0-3-1).

"I don't know what to say about the way we've been playing," defenseman Jay McKee said. "We have to get out of this rut and end this losing streak. We're not a team that can have a couple of guys take a night off. The last couple of games almost the whole team took the night off. We can't do that. The team last year depended on hard work, and it needed everyone to get the job done."

While the Sabres may have been more competitive on Sunday than they were Friday, the quality of the opposition has to be considered. Montreal had a winning record, while Chicago came into the game 0-7. The Blackhawks had scored a total of six goals all season, yet they piled up 47 shots, to Buffalo's 17.

For the second straight game, opposing forwards were allowed to skate unencumbered at times through the Buffalo zone, leading to several good scoring chances. The Sabre goalies -- both Dominik Hasek and Steve Shields got into the game -- did their best, but couldn't withstand the wave of shots.

"We've got to limit their chances," Jason Dawe said. "They had I don't know how many great opportunities today to score. It was the same the other night against Montreal."

The Sabres had reason to be optimistic about this one, particularly after a good start. Dawe swatted home a rebound only 37 seconds into the game. Another goal in the early going might have reminded the Blackhawks about their 0-7 start, but Buffalo couldn't add to its lead.

Instead, Sergei Krivokrasov got the Blackhawks even and the crowd of 16,145 into the game with a goal about four minutes later. He was joined on the score sheet through the end of the second period by teammates Eric Weinrich, Eric Daze and Steve Dubinsky. Only some acrobatics by Hasek prevented the margin from going even higher.

The Blackhawks had a 35-10 margin in shots through 40 minutes, and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff switched goalies after the second intermission.

"He had faced enough shots the last two nights to last three games," Ruff said.

Miroslav Satan of the Sabres and Alexei Zhamnov of the Blackhawks traded goals in the third period, but Chicago was never in serious jeopardy. After the game, several players sat stunned in the locker room for quite a while. About the only encouraging words came from Ruff, who was slightly more pleased than he was Friday.

"I thought we battled harder at times," he said. "On Friday there was no battle. We were beaten in every situation. Today at least there were times where we controlled play in their end. We had a lot of chances where we didn't shoot the puck or shot it wide."

But Ruff and everyone else connected with the Sabres realized that the bad parts of the team's play outnumbered the good, for the second straight game. Dawe says the Sabres will be busy before Wednesday's home game against Calgary.

"You look at those two games, and there's definitely a lot of work to be done," he said.

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