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SABRES FIND DIFFICULTY TRYING TO DEAL

Two teams that have vowed changes will meet tonight in Madison Square Garden secure in the knowledge that no one is going anywhere.

At least for awhile.

"We have had a number of discussions with a lot of teams," said Sabres general manager Darcy Regier prior to tonight's Buffalo Sabres-New York Rangers matchupin Madison Square Garden (7, Empire; Radio 104.1 FM and 710). "It's amazing what's going on in the league right now. It's very difficult to get deals done."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff had stated after Wednesday's 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders that there could be changes coming, and soon.

The Rangers also were rumored to be on the verge of making a deal, reportedly for former Sabres winger Alexander Mogilny, but that didn't come to pass either.

All teams are now prohibited from making deals until midnight Dec. 27. The league-wide moratorium is so that no player will be traded over the Christmas holiday.

"There are a lot of factors that go into this," Regier said of his trade talks. "Money is obviously an issue, but so are the conference races. I've talked to a number of general managers in recent days and there does seem to be some reluctance to deal inside the conference."

The Sabres are known to be looking for some down-low defensive help and some size and scoring on the wings. Despite their emotional 1-0 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, the Sabres are still in last place in the Northeast Division and next to last place in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers, who have about double the Sabres' payroll, are also struggling. New York has won just twice in its last 13 games and actually has fewer wins (10) than the Sabres (11). The Rangers had to rally from a 2-1 deficit to get a tie with lowly Tampa Bay Saturday afternoon. Former Sabres center Pat LaFontaine set up the tying goal.

Like Regier, Rangers general manager Neil Smith was actively working the phones right up until the midnight moratorium Friday, but he came up empty.

"I think everyone's used up their budget," Smith said.

The Rangers must also deal with the loss of defenseman Jeff Beukeboom. He broke his ankle earlier this week and is expected to be out several months.

Meanwhile, Regier took in a Rochester Amerks game Saturday before moving on to to New York for tonight's Sabres contest. He said he was encouraged by Friday's effort, but he didn't rule out a trade somewhere down the road.

"We feel we've made a proper assessment of our team and we are looking for ways to improve it," he said. "I believe we will continue to talk to teams during the trade break. We are not going to accept play without passion."

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