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John Rigas of Adelphia Communications Corporation has signed the formal agreement under which Rigas, with participation by Adelphia, would acquire control of the Sabres.

"Details were not released," a prepared statement said, "but will be communicated to the Sabres' partners early next week. A meeting of the partnership is planned early next month to consider the transaction. The closing is expected to take place in April, but is subject to various third-party consents and approvals, including that of the National Hockey League."

The announcement was about the only good news on the Sabres' front Saturday. On the ice the team suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Rigas is taking control of a team that seems to be distracted by some off-ice problems including the situation of winger Matthew Barnaby, who has asked to be traded. The team has said it will attempt to honor his request within reason. The NHL trading deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff denied that the Barnaby affair was a distraction to the team or that the fiery winger was missed. But he was outspokenly critical of the team after Saturday's game.

"Yes, I was disappointed," Ruff said. "The first two periods, especially, we were out-hit, out-fought, out-skated. We didn't have a lot of emotion. We were dead from the ankles up.

"In the third period, we tried hard. A few people, at least, got upset, pushed and shoved. We hit a few guys. Guys that don't normally hit at least dumped a few guys."

Boston's first goal came on a wraparound play by Per-Johan Axelsson. It appeared that goalie Dominik Hasek was slow getting across to block Axelsson's shot.

Ruff put part of the blame on a defenseman -- Bob Boughner and Richard Smehlik were on the ice at the time.

"We had a defenseman there that should have been protecting the post," Ruff said.

He also bemoaned the lack of offense.

"We might have had three great scoring chances the whole game. You didn't see any breakaways or two-on-ones," Ruff said. "No second shots. The one second shot, Rob Ray hit the goal post."

Ruff described the work of Boston goalie Byron Dafoe as, "very solid, but was he asked to be spectacular? No."
Hasek took the blame for the first Boston goal. "It was probably my fault. . . . For sure, I have to be faster to get back in the net."

Hasek did not fault his teammates for lack of effort, citing how sticky the Bruins can make things.

"Boston is probably one of the best defensive teams this season," he said. "They play very defensively, always three or four back. It's tough to go through their defense. Once you fall behind it's tough to get back. The first goal changed the whole game, I think. We didn't have too many chances. One or two goals against a team like Boston is is sometimes too much."

The game's three stars went to Dafoe, Axelsson and Hasek. . . . Boston center Tim Taylor had the wind knocked out of him and injured some ribs in the third period when he was checked into the boards at the Bruins' bench by Donald Audette of the Sabres.

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