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KRUSE COULD STABILIZE SABRES' LINES

Paul Kruse found out the hard way that he was the newest member of the Buffalo Sabres.

"I went down to breakfast in the morning, and a couple of guys on my team told me they'd heard I got traded," the ex-New York Islander said. "I thought they were just joking. I went over to the rink to see what was going on. All of a sudden, the deal came up on TV."

The rugged left winger later was told Tuesday morning he had been traded to Buffalo for Jason Dawe. Kruse immediately flew to Calgary and played for the Sabres on Tuesday night. Now he's back in Vancouver, where the Islanders played Tuesday and where Buffalo will play the Canucks in GM Place tonight (10, Empire, Radio 104.1 FM, 710).

The 28-year-old hopes to find a home with Buffalo, while the Sabres hope he can fill a role and help the team clarify the use of its forwards for the rest of the season and for the playoffs.

Kruse was placed on a line with center Wayne Primeau and winger Rob Ray for the Flames' game. Kruse knows his job is to wreak havoc on opposing teams, and he thinks the trio did some of that Tuesday night.

"I really liked playing with Wayne and Rob," Kruse said. "We worked hard and got some chances. Hopefully we can do our jobs every night."

Captain Michael Peca liked what he saw.

"He did all the little things right," Peca said. "He's a big, strong guy who finishes the check. He gets the puck in and out when he has to. He creates chances. It's not a case of just banging the puck around. He's a character guy that we really needed."

While the Sabres obviously traded Dawe's offense for Kruse's size, coach Lindy Ruff hopes the exchange can bring some order at the forward position.

"We also had too many players vying for the same ice time," he said. "We had seven or eight power-play guys. If (Miroslav) Satan played more, then Dawe got the short end. We could never get a guy on a roll. This way we can go to the same guys, put a little faith in them and hope that it will be enough."

The Sabres' lineup did look more ordered during Tuesday's game. The key might be Satan, who is the team's leading scorer but who has had trouble finding a regular spot on a line.

In the week before the trade, Ruff placed Satan on a wing with Peca and Dixon Ward, moving Dawe to the fourth line. Apparently Ruff liked what he saw, because Satan was still there against the Flames.

"Dixon Ward was never tagged as a defensive player. He always was a playmaker," Ruff said. "For a long stretch Jason Dawe struggled scoring goals. The opportunities were there, but we weren't finishing. We gave Miro a chance on that line to see if we'd get better results."

Satan welcomes the opportunity for a regular shift.

"I had been moving around on many lines. We had some scoring chances on Tuesday, so I was happy about that. I think we are a pretty good line," Satan said. "Michael usually goes against the other team's best line, so I have to play good defense against those guys."

Brian Holzinger continued to center for Geoff Sanderson and Donald Audette.

The other grouping featured Derek Plante between Curtis Brown and Matthew Barnaby. Michal Grosek, who was scratched Tuesday, is still in the picture. Vaclav Varada and Randy Burridge (currently in Rochester) could figure in Buffalo's plans in case of injury.

Peca missed Wednesday's practice with what Ruff termed an assortment of bumps and bruises, and the center is questionable for tonight.

That could scramble the line combinations again. But when everyone is healthy, Satan has high hopes that with Kruse here the current collection of forwards will fit into clearly defined slots.

"I definitely like it. I hope we keep playing good hockey, and that we're all going to stay in our roles," he said.
The Sabres worked out in GM Place for a little less than an hour. . . . Ruff said that goalie Steve Shields would see action on this road trip, although he wouldn't say when.

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