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Dominik Hasek, who did not start in goal Saturday for the Buffalo Sabres for the first time since Nov. 13, is a strong contender for NHL Player of the Month honors for the month of December.

Friday night's shutout of the New York Rangers was the fifth of the month for Hasek and lowered his goals-against average for December to 1.66 (18 goals against in 694 minutes).

Hasek's goals-against at home, where he registered four of the five blankings, is an even more amazing 0.82 (five goals in 365 minutes).

He is the first goalie in Sabres' history to register five shutouts in a month. In fact, only two NHL goalies in the modern era have recorded that many -- Jim Carey of the Washington Capitals in March of 1996 and Tony Esposito of the Chicago Blackhawks in February 1974. That's according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the official NHL statistical bureau.

Assuming he starts Monday night's home game against the New Jersey Devils and the New Year's Eve game at home against the Ottawa Senators, Hasek will have the opportunity to tie and perhaps surpass the all-time NHL record of six set by George Hainesworth in 1929.

Hainesworth, playing for the Montreal Canadiens, recorded six shutouts in successive months that year -- January and February. The Hall of Famer won the Vezina Trophy that year with an 0.98 goals-against average, the lowest mark ever for a Vezina winner.

Steve Shields, who got the start in goal Saturday against Carolina, last played in relief of Hasek in an 8-4 loss at Dallas Dec. 15. He was a 3-1 loser in his last previous start against Washington in Marine Midland Arena.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has invited his players to bring their fathers along on road trips during the season. Bob Boughner Sr., father of Bob Jr., a Buffalo defenseman, made this trip. Bob Jr.'s father and mother are visiting their son and his family here from Windsor, Ont.
The Sabres have one of the worst road penalty-killing records in the NHL. They came into Saturday's game ranked 26th (last) in the NHL killing penalties on the road at 74.0 percent (allowing 26 goals in 100 opportunities). By blanking the Rangers on all six of their man-advantage situations Friday night, the Sabres jumped to 90.9 efficiency at home, second-best in the league. Overall, Buffalo entered Saturday's game ranked 24th (33 goals in 177 shorthanded situations).

Continuing a holiday season tradition that goes back to the franchise's early years, the Sabres will hold their open practice at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Marine Midland Arena. Doors open at 10 a.m. Admission is free.

Prior to the practice, there will be activities such as face painting, balloon artists, Sabres' web site demonstrations, SabreKids enrollment and opportunities for fans to ask questions of their favorite players.